The Ecuadorian capital witnessed one of the major popular demonstrations in recent years.
Over a hundred thousand people flooded the streets and squares of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to protest against the economic and social policy of Rafael Correa’s government. The demos were organized by the so-called “People’s stoppage”, led by the Unitary Collective of Workers, Indigenous and Teachers Organizations.
The day of protests began with road closures in most of the country. However, the epicenter of the fighting took place in Quito. When the crowd of workers and indigenous tried to approach the government headquarters, they were harshly repressed by the police. Two known indigenous leaders, Carlos Pérez Guartambel and Salvador Quispe, were arrested after which they denounced mistreatment. After the protests, Jorge Herrera, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), said:. “Quito must continue [fighting], we want to overthrow this system of abuse.”
The march on Quito expresses the growing popular dissatisfaction with the austerity and repressive measures taken by Rafael Correa, in the context of a deteriorating economic situation in the country.
The main demands that drove the protests were:
- Rejection of unbearable criminalization of social protest. For the end of the persecution and imprisonment of union and popular leaders by Correa’s government.
- Rejection of the amendment of the constitution that seeks to eliminate the right to unionization in the public service sector.
- Rejection of the anti-workers labor law. For the right to collective bargaining, job security and for a general increase in wages.
- Opposition to the foreign debt, to free trade agreements (FTA) signed by the government, to the concentration of land ownership and privatization of water.
- Rejection to the end of gas subsidies and to increased electricity fare.
After years of relative “stability”, as in other Latin American countries, the “progressive” Correa’s government is being challenged in the streets by the workers and popular movement.
The economic crisis and the attacks on the standard of life and on democratic freedoms as well as surrendering Ecuador’s national sovereignty by Correa have been accumulated and generated a fair and progressive discontent among the Ecuadorian working class, a disappointment that is turning into action.
Rafael Correa responded to the massive mobilization in the same way he has always responded when confronted with the social movement: trying to discredit the protest and accusing the demonstrators of being manipulated by the “destabilizing right.”
But these discursive devices can not hide the reality: both Correa and other “Bolivarian” governments have been at the service, over the years, of their respective national bourgeoisie and imperialism. Nevertheless, they can’t hide that the Ecuadorian people, as their brothers in the rest of the continent, begin to express their discontent in the streets.