On January 31st, 2008 a monumental event for Ecuador’s Amazonian indigenous population took place in Ecuador’s coastal region, in Santo Domingo de las Tsachilas – Marlon Santi, a respected leader and “warrior” from the Pueblo Kichwa de Sarayaku, was elected unanimously as the new President of CONAIE, the national organization of Ecuadorian indigenous peoples. Santi, 32 years old, was President of Sarayaku during a critical and politically volatile period between 2003 and 2006, when the Ecuadorian government, under the leadership of ex-President Lucio Gutierrez, threatened to militarize Sarayaku’s territory and allow the Argentinean oil company, CGC, to enter the area, against Sarayaku’s will.
Marlon Santi led the defense of Sarayaku’s territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He has been a primary force in Sarayaku’s legal battle against the Ecuadorian State, which has been taking place within the framework of the Inter-American Commission and Court on Human Rights.
Marlon Santi’s election by consensus among Ecuador’s three regional indigenous organizations (CONFENIAE, ECUARUNARI, and CONAISE) constitutes a clear signal by Ecuador’s ancestral peoples that they are ready to once again take up the lucha (struggle) to defend their collective rights. They have expressed their commitment to exert strategic social pressure and mobilize their masses in favor of their territories, communities, and rights – an expression that echoes those which embodied the CONAIE in past decades and made the CONAIE a national and international icon for indigenous dignity and self-determination.
In his inaugural speech, Marlon called for a national mobilization and permanent vigilance of the National Constitutional Assembly so that the new Magna Carta guarantees, expands, and deepens the rights of indigenous peoples throughout Ecuador.
Pachamama is committed to supporting Marlon Santi and his new administration. His election represents a significant achievement for Ecuador’s Amazonian indigenous populations, and creates a favorable environment for advancing Pachamama’s mission.