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Indigenous people and unions maintain pressure on Moreno in Ecuador

October 6, 2019

QUITO, Oct. 5 (Reuters / EP) –

The indigenous and trade union organizations of Ecuador have mobilized again this Saturday with the promise of not giving in their intention for President Lenin Moreno to reverse in the “pack” of cuts and neo-liberal reforms. This is the third consecutive day of protests.

Indigenous communities have barricaded roads with rocks, sticks and tires on some roads in the north and south of the country, witnesses said, while police urged them to disperse.

Indigenous leaders have agreed to continue the protest despite the decision of the carriers that approved Friday night to lift the strike after two days in which they paralyzed the country to protest the elimination of fuel subsidies.

“We continue with the protest in each of our territories. It will not weaken the rise in unemployment of carriers … The indigenous movement is in permanent mobilization throughout the country,” said the president of the organization CONAIE indigenous, Jaime Vargas. “With jail or without jail the decision is firm,” Vargas added in telephone statements to Reuters.

In the protests on Thursday and Friday there were riots and destruction of public goods, which forced Moreno to declare a state of emergency for 60 days and arrest some 379 people, including leaders of the carriers.

The president has said that he will not give up his decision to end the diesel and extra gasoline subsidies, which have been in force for decades, and that he is open to dialogue to evaluate compensation measures.

“The term of the unemployment of the carriers is a triumph of the country, of the citizen's peace,” said the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, José Valencia, in appearance before the foreign press in Quito. “These are difficult decisions, not simple decisions, but they are indispensable; the Government believes that in the medium and long term the effect on the economy will be positive,” he added, while noting that direct economic aid has increased poor sectors to compensate for rising prices.

Protesters have called for a nationwide general strike for Wednesday. “The outrage of the package is of the Ecuadorian people (…) the package is a prize for entrepreneurs, for banking and for complying with the IMF's recipes,” said the president of the Unitary Front of Workers (FUT), Messiah Tatamuez, in statements to Reuters.

The Government informed in a statement that after a technical analysis and “due to the cost update justified” an increase in the urban transport rate of between 5 and 10 cents, but it will be the authority of each city responsible for ratifying the ticket cost.

Transport resumed irregularly on Saturday throughout the country. In Quito, urban buses did not circulate in the city unlike the taxis that resumed service.

While in Guayaquil, transport operated more fluently in the presence of police, although the population complained of an increase in food prices. “Everything they want to come up with the pretext that gasoline rose in price, now we just need to get the final blow with the price of tickets,” said a 65-year-old retiree, Camilo Salazar, while shopping in a market in the south of Guayaquil.

The demonstrations, which turned violent, have become a challenge for Moreno, who took office in 2017 and put the oil nation on a path of neoliberal reforms after years of a leftist government.

Ecuador expects to save about 1.5 billion dollars with the elimination of fuel subsidies, which are added to other tax and labor reforms proposed by Moreno to combat a large fiscal deficit. Ecuador reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in February for $ 4.2 billion with a three-year economic program.