The People of Ecuador show their bravery

South America is once again the scene of social rebellion, involving the lower classes and indigenous communities, and what happened in Ecuador a month ago was also proof that the pressure cooker prepared by capitalism in this last century has a lid that could soon jump off.

On June 13, Ecuador’s Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, known as CONAIE, began organizing protests across the country to demand a series of economic and social policy reforms in response to rising inflation and the rising cost of fuel, gas, and electricity.

Day after day, as the protests spread, different ways of fighting followed one another, such as blocking traffic and some essential economic activities.
The “Paro Nacional”, the national strike called by Conaie, had consequences and contributed to determining the troubled history of Ecuador, inspiring other populations as well.

Much of the country, inhabited by 18 million people, was blocked due to the interruption of the main communication arteries which prevented the regular flow of transport. Another peculiarity of the protest was the closure of more than a thousand oil wells thanks to the blockades carried out by the indigenous communities of the Amazon which caused losses of 186,000 barrels a day and more than 96 million dollars.

The exceptional nature of the revolt and its enormous scope forced the government to take exceptional measures: the neoliberal government headed by President Lasso reacted by declaring a state of emergency on 18 June in the provinces of Imbabura, Pichincha and Cotopaxi, and on 21 June in Tungurahua, Chimborazo and Pastaza. In fact, even earlier it had approved a law “on the progressive use of force”, which in fact legitimizes the police to shoot “if in danger”.
The vigor of the protest and the vehemence of the repressive measures together determined the bloody outcomes of the clashes: the capital Quito was paralyzed for days with over 300 injuries and 6 deaths being recorded.

Meanwhile, the economic impact was also heavy: on June 26, Ecuador produced only half the quantity of oil (its main export) compared to two weeks earlier.

The first and most important claim of the demonstrators concerned the containment of the price of fuel (rising by 90% in the case of diesel and by 46% for petrol) and to have a decree aimed at facilitating oil exploration canceled.

Other demands that the protesters made were to review the decree on exploitation with respect to indigenous land rights and to work together with indigenous communities on future economic development policies.

When an agreement seemed to be within reach, the government however abandoned the talks following an attack attributed to the protesters of CONAIE (acronym participating in the negotiations) against a fuel convoy in which a soldier was killed and 12 others were injured.

In the meantime, there has been an arbitrary and illegal arrest, that of Leonidas Iza Salazar, president of CONAIE. The man, detained by security forces in the Cotopaxi province for 24 hours, was released following mass protests, but he still remains charged with a sentence that could cost him three years in prison. The accusation is that of having contributed to paralyzing public transport services.

Subsequently, thanks to the mediation of the Catholic Church and the stop of the violence, the state of emergency was lifted and it was possible to resume work after an agreement with the government on 30 June.

The most significant political result snatched by the indigenous leader Leonidas Iza Salazar from the government minister Francisco Jimenez, was the fact that he obtained the commitment from the executive to derogate from the decree on privatization of the hydrocarbons sector and mining in indigenous lands.

A blow to the advancement of the oppressive reforms envisaged in the neo-liberal agenda of many governments and their funders, often large corporations from the Global North.

This article is published under Creative Commons 4.0 International license.
Feel free to republish it citing the author, The Human Exploring Society.

Photos are screenshots from the video ‘El paro sigue’ published on Leonidas Iza Salazar’s Facebook profile.

Cover photo by Julio Mayorga.

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