On October 8th, riots in Ecuador continued for the 6th day. Thousands of indigenous people who had been marching towards the capital, Quito, descended on the city.
The protesters were sparked after President Lenin Moreno introduced a series of labour and tax reforms, including a decision to scrap a nationwide fuel subsidy, which led to a massive spike in prices and anger.
“Violence and chaos will not defeat democracy,” Moreno said while flanked by police and military commanders, pointedly displaying their support for his administration. He dismissed the unrest as a politically motivated attempt to destabilize his government. “Peace will be victorious again.”
On October 8th, protesters were able to storm the National Assembly, before being moved out by police.
The Ministry of Energy announced that the country’s state-owned oil producer, Petroamazonas, had suspended operations at three of its oil fields in the Amazon rainforest, saying outside groups “violently entered” the facilities on October 7th.
The Energy Ministry separately said the Trans-Ecuadorian Oil Pipeline System saw a costly disruption of service after a breach of the facilities by people it described as unconnected with operations. Authorities said the suspension, which lasted about 2 hours and 20 minutes, cost the country roughly $1.7 million.
So far, around 570 people have been arrested for taking part in what the president’s chief of staff, Juan Sebastián Roldán, called a “crime wave.”
Hasta hoy se han detenido 570 personas, por atentar contra bienes públicos y privados, por paralizar vías o que han violentado contra otras personas injustificadamente.
La justicia y la Fiscalía tendrán que tomar acciones para detener esta ola de delincuencia.@radioquitoec
— Juan Sebastián Roldán (@juanseroldan) October 8, 2019
The reforms announced by Moreno were quite unpopular, including a 20% cut in wages for new contracts in public sector jobs, a new requirement forcing public sector workers to donate one day’s worth of wages to the government each month and a decrease in vacation days for public workers from 30 to 15 days a year.
The government also decreased income taxes, in an attempt to leverage something positive. Supporters say the reforms are essential to grow the economy and lift the country out of debt. But Andres Arauz, economist and former general of banking at the Central Bank of Ecuador, disagreed.
“‘There is no alternative’ is a false narrative, because there is always an alternative. What is different is who bears the cost of the measures,” Arauz told Al Jazeera.
The current measures were taken in order to “not hurt creditors or the domestic elites” while the cost of the reforms are all “being born by the majorities”, he said.
On October 7th, Moreno announced that he and the government had fled the capital, due to fears of violence. Moreno announced that he and his ministers are presiding from the coastal city of Guayaquil after Quito’s dangerous descent into “looting, vandalism and violence.”
“Ecuador’s main problem is actually a balance of payment problem, that it needs more dollars, more foreign exchange to pay back its loans,” he said.
“Establishing capital control measures and limiting dollar flight from unnecessary imports” are valid alternatives that wouldn’t have such as major effect on the Ecuadorian people, he added.
According to Moreno, the riots were sparked by the former government of Rafael Correa.
“What has happened is not a manifestation of social discontent in protest of a government decision. The lootings, vandalism and violence show there is an organized political motive to destabilize the government,” he said.
Protesters said that there would be no dialogue and the riots would keep happening until the reforms and cuts were reversed by the President.
Notably, there are few reports in MSM blaming the Ecuador government of violence against protesters, despite the hundreds injured and arrested. The “bloody Ecuador regime” is simply “Moreno’s government.”
There is a simple explanation for that, Lenin Moreno’s government is very subordinate to Washington, so any protests against it, be it by a large part of the population can’t be in support of democracy. After all, democracy is what the Washington-led establishment says it is, not what the people want.
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