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Ecuadorean Indians Lash Lawmaker

August 16, 2003

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ A congressman with an Indian rights party got a traditional indigenous punishment for not toeing the line: he was stripped to his underwear, doused with cold water and lashed with nettles.

Ecuador’s judicial system allows indigenous communities to apply traditional punishments, and such public humiliation and beatings are common in isolated Andean villages.

Congressman Salvador Quishpe, of the Pachakutik party, had been ordered with the rest of his party to vote against a government-sponsored bill on wage reform. Instead, he left Congress before the vote.

Although the bill was soundly defeated even without Quishpe, party leaders vowed to punish him. They came through on their promise before dawn Friday. An amateur videotape, broadcast on a local television station, showed Quishpe standing in white cotton briefs with his head down and silently enduring the ordeal.

Indian leaders have warned that several other lawmakers and former government officials may soon face similar retribution.

``We are not going to permit undisciplined acts,″ Confederation of Indigenous Nations leader Manuel Cholango told reporters later Friday, adding that Quishpe would be expelled from the party if he failed to follow the official line again.

The Indian confederation, as well as its political arm Pachakutik, helped elect President Lucio Gutierrez. After taking office in January, however, the president quickly alienated indigenous leaders with austere economic measures. The alliance fell apart last week.

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