Socialist Worker

Protests in Ecuador force government to back down

by Gabby Thorpe
Issue No. 2676

Protesters in Latacunga, Ecuador

Protesters in Latacunga, Ecuador (Pic: affbotanica on Twitter)


Protesters in Ecuador have forced the government to cancel an austerity package that caused two weeks of violent demonstration across the South American country.

Some 1,152 demonstrators were arrested, and seven were killed in clashes with police. The protests were so widespread that the ­government fled the capital, Quito.

The deal was announced on Monday morning. It means that Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, will withdraw the package enforced by the International Monetary Fund.

At its heart was the removal of fuel subsidies, causing prices to soar. A rise in fuel prices would inevitably lead to a rise in food prices.

The unrest caused Moreno to call a two-month state of emergency, with a curfew in place.

The protests were originally called by transport unions when Moreno unveiled his new decree on fuel subsidies on 1 October.

They held strikes, and other groups of workers also took action.

But indigenous people have become the leaders of the ­movement, and are the most vocal in demanding justice.

Movements led by indigenous people in Ecuador have toppled three presidents in recent decades.

Luis Iguamba, leader of the north Ecuadorian Kayambi people said, “We are fighting for everyone and we are fighting to foresee the rights we all have and we can’t allow this.”

Hostage

Protesters took around 50 police officers hostage in various locations, and still held some when the deal was reached.

The Confederation for Indigenous Nations in Ecuador (Conaie) declared a “state of exception” in indigenous areas, where police would be detained and face ­indigenous justice.

They also blocked roads, forcing the closure of dozens of businesses including dairy and flower farms.

The police response has seen demonstrators defending ­themselves against rubber bullets and tear gas. Many carried ­sharpened sticks and used ­satellite dishes and plywood as makeshift shields.

In nationally broadcast negotiating sessions on Sunday, the president of Conaie, Jaime Vergas, demanded the immediate ­cancellation of Moreno’s fuel ­subsidy proposal.

He said, “This isn’t a demand of the indigenous people, it’s the demand of the country.”

He went on to ask for more rights for indigenous people. He said, “We want peace for our brothers and sisters in this country. We don’t want more repression.”

Other demands included higher taxes for the rich and the firing of the interior and defence ministers for their repressive response to the protests.

The government has agreed to work with indigenous leaders at the forefront of demonstrations to formulate a new plan which will reduce Ecuador’s debt whilst ­reinstating subsidies. The austerity package has left millions in debt.

Many have said that they will continue to protest until Moreno has been forced out.


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