The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) headed this Wednesday the mobilizations and roadblocks on the second consecutive day of protests against the economic policies of President Guillermo Lasso. Powered by a rise of up to 12 percent in fuels (with a 90 percent cumulative increase since 2020), the mobilizations of which peasants, students and workers also participated They are the largest in Lasso’s five months in office. The Pandora Papers scandal also weighed on the rallies, in which the properties of the Ecuadorian president appeared in tax havens. “The current cycle of protest is due to the social reaction to the social and economic crisis unleashed by the neoliberal policies of the Lasso and Moreno governments,” he summarized in dialogue with Page 12 Pablo Iturralde, social leader and coordinator of the National Citizen Assembly (ANC).
Pending an update, the protests have so far left a balance of 37 detainees and two soldiers detained by protesters, who were finally released north of Quito. A journalist and indigenous leader died accidentally on Wednesday while covering the activities in the province of Cotopaxi. In the Ecuadorian capital, a protester sustained an injury Tuesday when he was struck in the forehead by a tear gas canister. In addition, a press worker was hit by a rubber bullet fired by a policeman, according to the Fundamedios organization.
Cuts, marches and claims
The powerful Conaie set up blocks with stones, logs and burning wheels at various points on the Pan-American highway, at the northern exit of Quito. The protesters were cutting down trees from a nearby hill to strengthen the barricades on the main artery that connects the Ecuadorian capital with Colombia through the Andean area. “We closed the lanes with the material from some dump trucks. The government has done bullshit with raising gasoline all the time.”, expressed Dennis Viteri, a 28-year-old textile worker.
Authorities also reported roadblocks in provinces such as Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Imbabura, Bolívar, Cotopaxi, Morona Santiago, Pastaza and Azuay. In addition to that form of protest marches of workers, teachers and students were registered in Quito, in which clashes with the police were recorded near the headquarters of the Executive.
In a press conference from Quito, the leaders of different unions and social movements in the country described the day as “successful” and announced for next week a national convention in which they will seek to promote a national strike.
Mauricio Chiluisa, national president of the Federation of University Students of Ecuador (FEUE), was present at the demonstrations. In dialogue with Page 12, argued that he joined to express his rejection of “the neoliberal policies of the government of Guillermo Lasso, who contemplate budget reduction for education and health “, and they also “seek to apply a series of cuts that affect the country’s working classes.”
The protests on Tuesday and Wednesday unfolded in the midst of a 60-day state of emergency decreed by Lasso on October 18 to combat crime linked to drug trafficking, with a rebound in homicides and prison massacres that this year leave more than two thousand dead in the country. The government deployed soldiers in the streets to support the police, which led to attacks on peasants and indigenous people who demonstrated by cutting off roads.
This Wednesday Lasso called again for dialogue in all sectors during a military act, although did not give an inch to the claims of society. “It is time to be united, to think about the good of the country, not about personal, partisan or union interests,” said the president, who also ratified his support for the security forces.
The main reasons for the protest
Lasso recently decreed new fuel prices, with what a gallon (3.8 liters) of diesel climbed to $ 1.90, compared to the dollar a year ago. On Friday, in an attempt to curb the outrage of a part of the citizenry, The president announced a price freeze, which did not persuade either the unions or the social sectors most affected by the crisis that the country lives. They require that the freeze be based on June prices and not September prices, which are much higher.
The previous government of Lenín Moreno (2007-2021) sought to gradually eliminate fuel subsidies, a measure tied to the agreements signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to receive loans. Conaie led massive protests in 2019 against this measure, which left 11 dead and forced Moreno to back down, who in May 2020 issued monthly price adjustments according to the price of oil, which is on the rise. Lasso, who took office in May 2021, maintained that mechanism until last weekend he decreed the aforementioned increases in fuels.
Andres Tapia, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Confenaie), added other reasons for discontent in native communities and peasant sectors. “The repeal of two decrees on the oil issue and the mining issue that make the expansion of the extractive frontier feasible is required, especially the duplication of oil extraction in the north-east Amazon and also in the center-south, “said who is also in charge of communication for the organization.
From the Amazonian city of Puyo, Tapia assured this newspaper that the social discontent that exists with the Lasso government is growing. amid the protests “has made the decision to leave the country to fulfill its international agenda at COP26 (the climate change summit) and in other countries in Europe. “
Ecuador, which exports oil but imports fuel, faces a crisis reflected in a foreign debt of almost 46 billion dollars (45 percent of GDP) and a fiscal deficit of five percent. It also accumulates a 47 percent poverty and a 28 percent unemployment. As if that were not enough, Lasso faces investigations in the Prosecutor’s Office and Congress for his relationship with the Pandora Papers scandal, which revealed the tax havens of the most powerful men in the world.
Pablo Iturralde, coordinator of the ANC, understands that “as long as the orthodox imposition of the neoliberal model by Lasso continues, the protest cycle will not only continue but will increase in these months and the first of the year 2022“. In the same vein, the student leader stated Mauricio Chiluisa, who assures that “There is a feeling of indignation and powerlessness, but also of struggle among those of us who, together, seek better days for Ecuador.”