On May 24th at his first State of the Union (equivalent) address after one year in office, President Guillermo Lasso said of this government’s performance and the conflictive atmosphere in Ecuador, “The worst of the storm has now passed.” Today, four weeks later, Quito is a combat zone between the protesters marching on the capital and the police and military (put hashtag Ecuador in your social media feed of preference and watch the tear gas in near-realtime). If you like, the storm blew over to leave room for a hurricane.
The protests are being led by the indigenous umbrella group CONAIE, but they’ve been joined by several other opposition groups. Today is Day Nine of the protests and the worst clashes to date, a day that started with a press conference by the armed forces claiming that democracy itself is under threat and is now a running battle on the streets of the capital, with many other towns and cities hosting their own marches as well as roads blocked across the country and a State of Emergency in place in much of the country. As for what the protesters want, President Lasso claimed yesterday their desire was to throw him out of office (and he has a point), but the ten official demands are:
- The reduction of fuel prices (to the subsidized levels of old, roughly half the current pump price)
- A one year finanical moratorium on personal financial debts
- To guarantee employment and labour rights
- Fair prices for agricultural produce
- No mining in indigenous territories
- The respect of collective rights
- No privatization of essential services (water, electricity, etc)
- Policies to control price speculation
- Larger public sector budget for health and education
- Introduce measures to improve security (crime rate issues, etc)
In other words, inflation is now causing social upheaval in Ecuador. And mining, of course. Lasso is now under pressure for his job and while so far he’s playing the strongman role, he’s also agreed to meet protest leaders tomorrow Wednesday for negotiations mediated by agreed neutral parties (probably a couple of NGOs of choice). There’s also a growing call from Ecuador’s Congress to start an impeachment process against the President, but even though that would be unlikely to prosper immediately it would signal just how much trouble he’s in.
PS: To be exact…