Ecuador's National Assembly on Jan. 7 approved a new Law on Rural Lands and Ancestral Territories by a vote of 98 in favor, three against and 23 abstentions. Celebrating the law's passage, National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira said, "The land must belong to those who work it." The law instates incentives for land to be used productively, and allows for the expropriation of idle estates. It creates a National Land Authority to redistribute plots among rural families and small and medium producers, provide credit and technical assistance, build irrigation infrastructure, and oversee conflict resolution. Carlos Viteri, president of the National Assembly's Specialized Permanent Committee for Biodiversity and member of the ruling PAIS Alliance, hailed the law as "a symbol of the transformation of the country." Viteri, an indigenous Kichwa leader from the Amazon region, added that the reform will eliminate the legacy of previous land laws, which allowed a few families to concentrate ownership at the expense of campesinos and small farmers.
José Agualsaca, president of the Confederation of Indigenous and Campesino Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador (FEI), who contributed to the development of the law, proclaimed: "The National Assembly has finally heard the demands of the rural sector, from the campesino, indigenous, Montubio, Afro-Ecuadorean peoples and the small and middle producers in this country."
But Ecuador's independent Observatory of Rural Change (OCARU) said in a statement that the law "leaves intact the unequal structure in land tenancy," calling it the fruit of "an alliance between the State and the agro-industrial elites." The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) also rejected the new law, saying it "consciously ignores the structural problem of the latifundio and concentration of land." (Prensa Latina, Jan. 8; El Comercio, Quito, TeleSur, TeleSur, Biodiversidad en América Latina, Jan. 7