Defying repression, tens of thousands of Ecuadorians take part in national strike
The people of Ecuador took part in a massive national strike on October 9, called by a number of organisations against the neoliberal reforms of President Lenin Moreno.
Tens of thousands of workers, students, Indigenous people, peasants, Afro-descendant people, women and citizens took over the streets of the capital, Quito. The mobilisation was directed towards the city’s historical centre, where the Candolet Palace is located. The area continues to be heavily militarised and barricaded and protesters were met with heavy repression.
In the midst of the strike, Moreno returned to the capital from Guayaquil, where he had temporarily shifted the seat of government to on October 7, as permitted by the state of emergency.
He claimed that the primary focus of his return was to engage in dialogue with the mobilised organisations. He has yet to meet their conditions, which include the repeal of the economic measures and the resignation of interior minister Maria Paula Romo and minister of defense Oswaldo Jarrín. These ministers have been identified by movements as directly responsible for the brutal repression of protesters.
In the evening, following the massive march on October 9, police launched tear gas bombs and attacked the humanitarian refuge and aid distribution centers at the Catholic and Salesiana Universities, where senior citizens, women and children were staying. Many members of the Indigenous movements are also staying there, as they traveled in from outside the capital.
Organisations have condemned the use of tear gas, unconventional weapons, firearms and batons by the police and military. Eight protesters have been killed and hundreds gravely injured. According to official figures, in seven days of protests, over 766 people have been arrested and 128 have gone through legal proceedings.
The daily mobilisations since October 2 are in response to a set of neoliberal economic measures or the paquetazo (package) announced by Moreno on October 1, which includes the elimination of a decades-old fuel subsidy.
Despite the plurality of voices, organisations and movements that have been on the streets for the past week rejecting the measures, the government and its regional allies claim that the protests have been instigated by former president Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Furthermore, Moreno has reiterated, several times, that he will not change his position on the economic measures.
On October 8, Moreno ordered a partial curfew from 8pm to 5am in areas near government buildings through an executive decree, 888. The curfew restricts the circulation of vehicles and people and will remain in force throughout the state of emergency, which could continue for a period of 30 days.
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationals of Ecuador (CONAIE), one of the biggest social organisations in the country, condemned the curfew and called on people to continue mobilising.
On October 8, 2000 protesters from different Indigenous, peasant and social organisations and trade unions occupied the Ecuadorian Assembly and held a People’s Assembly. They were brutally repressed by the national security forces, who threw tear gas and shot rubber bullets at the demonstrators. Several dozen people who participated in this action were arrested and charged.
CONAIE also denounced the police repression on the Indigenous community demonstrating at the museum, La Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, in Quito, where police used tear gas and rubber pellets to disperse the peacefully protesting crowd, consisting of children and the elderly.
Several alternative media projects that have been closely following the protests have also been subjected to raids and censorship. Radio station, Pichincha Universal, denounced a raid carried out by the national police and the Attorney General’s Office on its headquarters.
Through its Twitter account, the media outlet said that the measure was executed “for the alleged crime of inciting discord among citizens”. Pichincha Universal has been extensively reporting on incidents of police repression across the country.
Social Movements of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) expressed support for the people of Ecuador in their fight against the “lackey and subordinate government”.
ALBA denounced the deaths caused by police repression and held Moreno and his government responsible for them.
“In less than three years, Moreno’s administration has indebted Ecuador to the tune of more than US$20 billion and effected tax cuts worth US$4.295 billion for the rich,” ALBA said in an official statement.
“This income is now what the State pretends to recover from the rest of the people. Meanwhile, the winners of this neoliberalist party, the bankers, have reported earnings for more than 500 billion dollars.
“In summary, a massive theft endorsed by mass media and international institutions. Nothing we haven’t seen before. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the paquetazo to make the people of Ecuador pay its debt, by removing subsidies to fuel, whose consequence will be rising prices of food and basic products consumed by the working class.”
Abridged from: Peoples Dispatch.