Thousands of people marched in Quito on Tuesday, October 26, and at the call of indigenous organizations, roadblocks were erected in several provinces of Ecuador, condemning the government’s economic policies, despite the state of emergency being promulgated to combat insecurity.
In the capital, a demonstration was organized by the Conaie of Indigenous Peoples (Conaie) composed of union members, locals and students. According to police colonel César Zapata, it gathered 1,500 people.
“I’m here for the three children who have been unemployed since last year. They help me eat, we are all in pain, and we are desperate.”Maria Elena Ponce, a 58-year-old housewife, told AFP.
At the end of the afternoon, clashes broke out between the police and dozens of stone-throwing demonstrators not far from the Presidential Palace. The heavily deployed police responded by firing tear gas.
The police also used tear gas to disperse demonstrators blocking roads on the outskirts of the capital. Authorities say at least 18 people have been arrested. Agence France-Presse pointed out that a protester was injured.
According to the National Emergency Operations Center, since the morning, at least five of the country’s 24 provinces, including the capital, have set up roadblocks on their roads.
Call for a freeze on fuel prices
In the central Andes, a dam was erected at the entrance of the main indigenous town of Zumbahua, 165 kilometers from Quito. Agence France-Presse pointed out that the protesters banned traffic with stones and set fire to tires.
“We have issued an appeal to reject everything imposed by the national government. He does not accept proposals, dialogues with social organizations, indigenous organizations”, Condemned to AFP Giulio Cesar Pilarumbo (Zumbahua) community leader.
The special purpose of the blockade is to push conservative President Guillermo Lasso to reverse the announced fuel price increase of 12%.
The government must “Frozen fuel prices at $1.50 for diesel and $2 for gasoline”, In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Conaie president Leonidas Iza claimed.
“Paralysis represents the economic loss of small businesses. This is the livelihood of thousands of Ecuadorian families and families. Say #No to the strike for the revival and prosperity of the entire country.”, The President responded on Twitter.
The call for mobilization was issued in the already explosive atmosphere of this country of 17.7 million inhabitants (7.4% of which are indigenous): due to the gang wars controlling the succulent market of cocaine, insecurity is on the rise, and the economy is struggling to recover from Covid-19 s consequence. Poverty affects approximately 47% of the population.
Fuel prices are a frequent topic of debate between the Ecuadorian government and indigenous groups. In 2019, Konai forced President Lenin Moreno (2017-2021) to abandon the complete elimination of public fuel subsidies. The 12 days of violent protest resulted in 11 deaths.
Unlike in 2019, Tuesday’s protests were part of a 60-day state of emergency promulgated by the government to combat drug-related violence, and the state is mobilizing street troops to support police operations.
Located between Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is a drug smuggling center due to its permeable border, dollar-dependent economy and main export seaport.