Relatives of those killed as a result of the repression and of indigenous adolescents detained on terrorism charges, wounded, boys who lost their eyes, human rights activists, women who sustained and supported the strike, popular reporters, independent press, delegations from provinces (such as Sucumbios in the northern Amazon where 120 people were imprisoned in a single incident), we presented our testimonies on October 27, 28 and 29, 2019 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In the spacious rooms of one of the best hotels in Quito there was a large distribution of tables, in the midst of a tense atmosphere. Along with the reception of the testimonies of the victims of the brutal state repression during the last National Strike, we found dozens of policemen giving their testimony, commercial media demanding their freedom of the press, victimizers disrupted into victims.
Are human rights universal or selective? Is it admissible to turn them into a utilitarian resource of politics? Apparently, many of those who claim them forgot that only the State can violate human rights, because it is the legal instance that holds the patrimony of force. And it is not an issue that is reduced to the propination of blows or the irresponsible directing of tear gas bombs to the faces and bodies of demonstrators; This is a planned, systematic and selective repression action, such as intimidating vulnerable human groups (women, children), throwing tear gas in communities and shelters to generate panic (Kichwa La Esperanza commune, Shuar communities in Morona Santiago, university shelters in Quito), selectively persecute and arrest leaders (Marlon Santi, national coordinator of Pachakutik and Jairo Gualinga, leader of the Youth of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE)), bring lawsuits from the State against social leaders (Mesías Tatamuez, President of the United Workers Front (Frente Unitario de Trabajadores) and Jaime Vargas, President of CONAIE), or initiate a witch hunt against groups accused of subversion.
Ordinary citizens are not in a position to violate the human rights of the police or the military. The violent acts that we citizens eventually commit in a public protest are clearly typified in the penal system, and must be assumed from those legal principles. But what we evidenced in the October protests was a state abusing its power against indigenous peoples, social movements, communes and citizens in general. In this repressive scheme, the police and the military act as instruments of this state policy of violation of the rights of the mobilized citizens.
The manipulation of human rights discourse is not, however, an exclusive practice of States. Unfortunately, sectors of the left have also incurred in this misrepresentation from power, despite the fact that the demand for human rights had its peak as part of the struggles of that left against the dictatorships. As Pablo Solón points out, this speech was used to endorse Evo Morales' candidacy for the presidency of the republic, even though the people had said NO to him in the 2016 referendum. In this case, the "human right" of the sovereign leader was above the will of the sovereign people and this assault on democracy has consequences to date.
In the same vein, the discourse of the defense of human rights can also underpin the hidden agendas of certain political sectors. For example, the one evidenced by the international observer mission that recently visited the country. The bias of the report is obvious. It should be entitled "Paola Pabón and her defence in the context of repression in Ecuador". In the end, it would seem that the trial against the prefect of Pichincha has more relevance than the thousands of detainees, the hundreds of wounded and the dozens of deaths during the national strike. And I am not asking for any violation of anyone's rights to be silenced, but I do demand that a fair measure be applied. In the end, the detention of Pabón is, among other things, the result of the internal conflict of her own political party, while repression against Indigenous peoples and Indigenous Nations has been a constant for decades.
Have we forgotten the systematic aggressions in Saraguro1, Nankintz2 or Intag3 during the previous (Correa´s) government? Nevertheless, it is necessary to demand that Paola Pabón, Virgilio Hernández, Gabriela Rivadeneira, Carlos Viteri and Soledad Buendía - militants with important positions in Alianza País - have their rights respected; those same rights that they denied to the social leaders, left-wing supporters and ecologists persecuted4 during Correa's government, of which they formed part.
Relativism in the defense of human rights must be rejected for the simple fact that they protect all of us equally. They are universal. That is why it is necessary to question the complicit silence of those self-proclaimed progressive governments in the face of human rights violations perpetuated by their peers. What Correa did or what Ortega does in Nicaragua is unacceptable. It would be an aberration to end up paraphrasing Roosevelt's cynical phrase about Somoza ("he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch") affirming that there are rulers/presidents who are violators of human rights, but they are our violators.
There is much to work on in a left wing that doesn't know how to make sense of its omissions and silences. The crisis of governability that Ecuador is experiencing today is not casual, nor is it the product of treason. To the correístas (Correa´s followers), the short glance is perfect to evade their responsibility with a social repression that lasted ten years and that has just exploded. Ten years during which they silenced the denunciations against the judicialization of more than 600 social leaders5, whose only crime was to defend collective rights and the rights of nature.
The states of exception and the progressive batons are just as brutal as the neoliberal ones.
Erika Arteaga Cruz⃰: Doctor/Physician, feminist, defender of the right to health. Latin American Association of Social Medicine.