The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Peasants Say New Ecuador Constitution Allows Them To Take Land

Friday October 3rd, 2008 / 0h05

QUITO (AFP)--Ecuador's new leftist constitution, approved by a landslide in a weekend referendum, has triggered occupations by impoverished peasants who believe the document authorizes them to take over unused land.

Machetes in hand, peasants in at least four regions of Ecuador have taken over farms and natural reserves, alleging that the new constitution gives them the right to build homes there.

Environment Minister Marcela Aguinaga blamed the chaos on "unscrupulous people who are using the constitution to say that it allows them to take unproductive land from whomever, regardless of whether it is a national reserve or private property."

The new constitution guarantees universal health care and free education up to the third year of college, as well as "a dignified and adequate home, independent of one's social and economic situation."

The government of President Rafael Correa, however, said the land occupations are illegal, and has ordered police to kick out the squatters.

The most serious problems were reported in the provinces of Guayas, Esmeraldas, Zamora Chinchipe and in the outskirts of Quito, where crowds took over unused land, farms and protected woodlands.

"We're here because the constitution allows it," said one of the squatters interviewed on local television. His face was painted in green camouflage.

"We are very sorry if there are people who are misinterpreting the constitution," Interior Minister Fernando Bustamante said.

Ecuador's new constitution strengthens the government's hold on the economy of this small nation of 13.9 million people -- half of whom live in poverty -- which is based chiefly on oil, banana and coffee exports, and money sent home by emigrants.

Correa has said he wants his country to pursue "21st century socialism," as Ecuador follows Venezuela and Bolivia, making it the latest South American country to chart a leftward course.

The new constitution is inspired by the leftist majorities in power in Venezuela and Bolivia and their repudiation of the neoliberal policies of the 1990s, but falls short of nationalizing the country's national resources as Bolivia and Venezuela have done.

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