Throughout the month of October, violent protests have occurred in Ecuador as the people are demanding a return of the fuel subsidies that the government has eliminated. The protests began on October 3rd after President Lenin Moreno signed off on policy that took away a $1.3 billion subsidy on gasoline. This change in the policy resulted in an immediate backlash from thousands of indigenous Ecuadorian people. Though 11 days of violence ensued, President Lenin Moreno has released a statement saying “I want to state that the measures we take together are completely firm. There is no possibility of changing, especially those related to a perverse subsidy that was causing damage to the country” meaning that his administration is not backing down from the controversial change. Moreno has stated that his administration is repealing this subsidy because it’s apart of an austerity package in order to meet the requirements of a necessary $4.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. He has followed up this decision with a promise to replace this Decree with another one that “contains mechanisms to focus resources on who needs it most,” according to Moreno.
The elimination of these subsidies have caused fuel prices to increase from about $1 to more than $2. To add onto this already increasing price, it has led to speculation and increasing of other consumer goods. These soaring prices have impacted poor people and those who live in rural areas the most. The protests have caused their normal 430,000 barrels of oil per day to be reduced by half, leaving a massive impact on the economy as it heavily relies on oil exports. Officials have stated that after the first week of protests, the country has lost more than $1 billion.
Neither members of the protests or President Moreno had indicated that they will back down as violence continued for 11 days. In fact, many human rights groups are condemning both sides as exceedingly violent steps have been taken from both the protestors and the police. Reports of burning media and police buildings have occurred while the protests rapidly worsen and gain more global attention. On the contrary, police brutality has resulted in further reciprocated violence from the protestors as they have began attacking police and burning many things in their path. Ecuador’s police force has been firing tear gas, sometimes in close range leading to injuries to the protestors. Additionally, there have been reports of up to 1,000 protestors that were detained and are unable to call an attorney or have any contact with their families.
On Sunday, October 13th President Moreno and the indigionous protest leaders reached an agreement of sorts. Moreno claims to replace Decree 833 with another one that will not benefit the wealthy, but rather help the people who are being negatively impacted by the repeal of Decree 833. As of now, the protest leaders have agreed to listen and end protests. They have stated that if Moreno doesn’t take steps to improve the economy, they are willing to resume the demonstrations. The day after both sides reached the agreement, demonstration clean up began in Quito.
I believe that President Moreno owes the indigionous people of Ecuador a new Decree, or should reimplement the subsidy that he took away. It has been detrimental to the nation’s economy and has led to negative impacts for the rural working class people of Ecuador that rely on jobs with the fuel exports. The president should not leave the people waiting to hear how he will make reparations for the $1 billion he has lost on this policy change. On the contrary, the protestors have reacted in an extremely violent way and should be held accountable for buildings and cars they have burned, places that they have bombed, and any injuries they have caused that were not self defense. President Moreno’s decision to suspend transits and implement a curfew was seemingly problematic as it only made protesters more willing to stay and prevented further economic growth. Rather than take more from the people, the president should have tried to restore peace more rapidly in order to make up for finances that were lost.
The issues happening in Ecuador are not uncommon. There are multiple other protests going on in Chile, Hong Kong, and Iraq as there seems to be a trend of vertical accountability. The people of the state are holding the state accountable– in Ecuador because of the subsidy, in Iraq because of the leaders, in Chile protestors call for social justice, and in Hong Kong protestors want their rights back from Chinese officials. In countries with a variety of different problems that could be anything from corrupt leadership to a single undesirable policy change, protests are becoming a larger trend. Unfortunately, in many countries these protests are additionally followed by police and military brutality and violence. The question I would like to pose is: will the indigiounous people of Ecuador now expect more of an inclusionary style of government from the administration as they are potentially successful in forcing the president to accommodate their motivations for protest?
Overall, the controversy in Ecuador has an indefinite ending as the President has not yet released his new plan to the people engaging in protests and violent backlash. The economy is still extremely unstable and it will be interesting to see what President Moreno has to say about this because he appears to be confident about his decision. Hopefully, the unrest will end and the two sides will reach an agreement, as they stated they could.
Castillo, Mariano. “Ecuador Extends Curfews after Violent Protests.” CNN, Cable News Network, 13 Oct. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/10/13/americas/ecuador-protest-curfew-intl/index.html.
“Ecuador: Reports of Excessive Response to Protest Violence.” Human Rights Watch, 11 Oct. 2019, www.hrw.org/news/2019/10/11/ecuador-reports-excessive-response-protest-violence#.
“Ecuador Violence: Protesters Agree to Talks with Government.” BBC News, BBC, 13 Oct. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-50030720.
McCoy, Terrence. “Celebration, Cleanup in Ecuador as Deal Ends Nationwide Protests – for Now.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 14 Oct. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/ecuador-deal-ends-nationwide-protests–for-now/2019/10/14/8575b3be-ee81-11e9-bb7e-d2026ee0c199_story.html.“Prensa.” Ir a Presidencia De La República Del Ecuador., www.presidencia.gob.ec/presidente-lenin-moreno-ratifica-eliminacion-de-subsidios-a-la-gasolina-y-decreta-estado-de-excepcion-para-precautelar-la-seguridad-ciudadana-boletin-oficial/.