Ecuador’s sizeable indigenous population and labour unions have had enough of socialist President Lenin Moreno’s IMF-imposed policies.
On Monday this week thousands of student protesters and indigenous Ecuadorians celebrated a victory over the country’s government following President Moreno, who has agreement to cancel the economic austerity package he announced at the beginning of October.
Austerity is when the government creates difficult economic conditions to reduce public expenditure and in this case, Moreno wanted to end government subsidies (money granted by the state to keep the price of a commodity or service low) on gasoline and diesel that have kept the country’s fuel prices low for over 40 years.
The unrest caused by the announcement, which went on for 11 days and left at least seven people dead with more than 1,000 injured, was also ignited by a built-up anger and frustration about the marginalisation of Ecuador’s indigenous groups.
When explaining his reasoning behind scrapping the subsidy earlier this month, Moreno described it as a ‘zanganería’, which is an anti-working-class slur used by wealthy Ecuadorians meaning ‘drone’ or ‘worker bee’. This is what spurred the indigenous groups to spearhead mass demonstrations and riots.
As a result, the government was forced to declare a state of national emergency as chaos flooded the capital city of Quito and security forces struggled to contain the violence. What started as a verbal objection to Moreno’s decision, quickly developed into full blown pandemonium as masked attacked television stations, newspaper offices, an oil production facility, and Ecuador’s congressional building.
As clouds of tear gas engulfed the city, as rioters set fire to police and military vehicles. Truckers and taxi drivers blocked highways in an attempt to prevent government officials from escaping from the capital.
Consequently, a curfew was imposed on Quito and surrounding areas to re-establish order, but it wasn’t until Moreno actively repealed the austerity law – known as Decree 883 – that the demonstrations stopped. ‘Comrades, this deal is a compromise on both sides,’ he said. ‘The indigenous mobilisation will end, and Decree 883 will be lifted.’
Although the agreement between Moreno and indigenous leaders has concluded the violence, a great deal of irreparable damage has already been done, particularly in regard to Ecuador’s economy, which was paralysed throughout the protests.