Indigenous Leaders In Ecuador Express Concerns Amid Broad New Austerity Measures

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Protestors near Quito’s historic center. (Photo by Vincent Ricci)
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By Vincent Ricci

NANN, Ecuador

News Americas, QUITO, Ecuador, Mon. May 25, 2020: Over the course of the international coronavirus pandemic, Ecuador has not hesitated to cut government spending and pay back millions in loans.

In the past week, President Lenín Moreno announced the closure of 7 public firms, including its postal service, and liquidated the national airline. In an address to the nation last Tuesday, he announced 150 thousand Ecuadorians lost their jobs due to businesses closing down.

With additional public employees laid off as the pandemic has battered the country’s economy, social movements are beginning to assemble again, now 7 months after Ecuador’s paro nacional – or national strike.

Since Moreno’s announcement earlier in the week, indigenous leaders from around the country are looking to see what actions can be done to counter the president’s decisions. Meanwhile, students have already been protesting over proposed education cuts totaling $98 million dollars presented at the beginning of the month.


Students put up large sign saying “no cuts” on the shadowing volcano next to Quito. Source: Leonidas Iza Twitter

Since Moreno’s announcement, indigenous leaders from around the country are looking to see what actions can be done to counter the president’s decisions. Meanwhile, students have already been protesting over proposed education cuts totaling $98 million dollars presented at the beginning of the month.

Two days after some public employees found out they had lost their jobs, workers from Ferroarriles, the national railroad agency and service, protested in multiple cities around the country asking for a dialogue with the president. “¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!” they chanted in the provincial city Ibarra – the people united will never be defeated! Furthermore, many said they are ready to work in a moment’s notice.

But the government doesn’t seem willing to negotiate, and with lockdown orders set since March 17, a unified reaction as seen in October will be challenging, however, not impossible.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in Ecuador (CONAEI) denounced the new economic policies set forth by the Moreno administration. Leonidas Iza, President of the Indigenous and Farmer Cotopaxi Movement (MICC) and affiliated to CONAEI, said plans are on going with Ecuador’s main labor union, Front Unitario de Trabajadores (FUT). “We are planning sanitary precautions and other details about the movement during these few days.”

Student protest outside the Escuela Nacional Politenica university. Photo taken by Vincent Ricci

Ecuador’s indigenous movement were known for ousting unpopular presidents in the early 2000s, but despite a disapproval rating of 85% last year, Moreno got away from what former predecessors faced.

Nevertheless, these cuts in the public sector are unifying workers, students, indigenous communities, and any patient or frontline workers currently affected by coronavirus due to reduced spending in public health.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Vincent Ricci is an independent journalist based in Ecuador. He covers human and indigenous rights, social movements, immigration, and politics in Ecuador and Latin America. You can follow him on Twitter @ Vincent__cr and his blog.

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