In a letter addressed to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), which represents and fights for the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana; Maria Fernanda Espinosa thanked them for their important support to her candidacy for Secretary General of the Organization of American States and made a commitment to continue fighting for their rights from the OAS.

The following is the official letter signed by CONAIE and COICA, in which they analyze the current situation of the OAS, their demands and the reasons why they support Maria Fernanda.


Organizations of the Abya Yala in light of the election of the

Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS)

We, the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala (Americas), welcome the adoption of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted at the 46th Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) on 15 June 2016, after 17 years of negotiations.

This adoption was historic, as it dignified more than 50 million indigenous men, women, young people, and children of the Abya Yala. Nonetheless, we have witnessed the damage of our relationship with States when they are required to comply with and guarantee the commitments made before the OAS, the United Nations, and other international mechanisms.

Despite the existence of this Declaration, as a clear mandate to States and especially to the OAS and its Secretariat, to promote, protect and implement the rights of indigenous peoples, the Secretary-General, Luis Almagro has not prioritized this issue in his administration. We have seen an oversight in the work of the Organization in terms of the development of our peoples, and the protection of the most vulnerable sectors of society within the continent.

Furthermore, have witnessed, with absolute concern, how the OAS, during the current Secretary-General’s term in office, has moved away from the fundamental principles of the Organization’s Charter, since instead of promoting peace, solidarity, and the integration of nations, it has contributed to greater instability, division, and confrontation in the Hemisphere; even acting in ways that have led to worrying human rights violations, such as the events that took place in Bolivia, after the Secretary-General expressed his personal opinion, without the authorization of States, which led to a break of the democratic order, ending in violent events and disrespect of fundamental human rights. On 18 December 2019, 18 Member States adopted a resolution[1] at the Permanent Council of the OAS rejecting violence in Bolivia and calling for full respect of the rights of indigenous brothers and sisters in Bolivia. Also, we have seen that the Secretary-General has acted impartially on behalf of geo-political interests alone and against the peoples of Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, and other States, thus permanently damaging the relationship between States and its peoples.

We, indigenous peoples, are no outsiders to global challenges. By not complying with the provisions of the American Declaration and other human rights instruments, our survival has become increasingly difficult, since our lives depend on our lands, territories, and natural resources, which are exploited by the States and lead to severe conflicts. For this reason, we urgently require defense strategies, at all levels, especially within the Inter-American System, to tackle inequality, poverty, exclusion, and racism from the perspective of continental integration.

It is the responsibility and mandate of the OAS to promote the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples in the continent, effectively implementing the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the mechanisms for the protection of human rights in general, in particular concerning indigenous peoples, through the Inter-American Commission and its Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

In light of the decision Member States will take on 20 March 2020 regarding the election of the Secretary-General, indigenous peoples are mindful of the proposals expressed by the candidates. In this regard, we note with great interest the proposal of Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa[2], who has considered the situation of indigenous peoples a priority and proposes concrete actions.  In addition, this must become a permanent commitment as a policy within OAS, determining the short, medium and long terms, in which urgent issues that have led to conflicts, mobilizations and general discontent and where States have failed to respect the rights of peoples and undermined peace in each of our territories.

At present, it is of vital importance to establish dialogues that allow for agreements and consensus to be reached based on internal debate between organizations and States, on very sensitive issues such as the protection of lands, territories and natural resources; policies in favor of indigenous languages; traditional knowledge; culture; health and culturally appropriate education; the scope and implementation of free, informed and prior consultation in indigenous territories before any policy or plan of intervention by the State or private companies; indigenous jurisdiction for the exercise of their forms of government and justice; self-determination; forms of Organization and participation; criminalization of indigenous defenders and leaders, among other crucial issues for the more than 50 million indigenous people throughout the continent.

We support the decision of the States that have proposed the candidacy of Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa for the post of Secretary-General of the OAS, as an alternative for regional integration. We are confident that with her election, the indigenous peoples agenda will be a priority in the OAS and of benefit to our peoples who have been historically relegated. Therefore, with the commitment to continue our struggle, we call upon our brothers and sisters of the continent to remain alert throughout this process and work to advance our historical demands and claims as indigenous peoples.

We, the signatory organizations, commit ourselves to continue working from our territories and demand from the OAS and other intergovernmental organizations the full and effective implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples, other collectives, and citizens of the continent.

The social organizations, citizens committed to the defense of human rights at a continental level, and supporters of this process, can subscribe and adhere to this communiqué:

– Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador CONAIE,

– Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin COICA,


The following is a letter by Maria Fernanda Espinosa thanking the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), for their important support to her candidacy.


[1] Available at

[2] Available at

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