QUITO – Nearly two weeks of protests against Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno has turned Quito, the country’s capital, into a battlefield featuring fire, shooting and even people killed. The situation has become so desperate that the government announced a curfew on Saturday that curiously begins every day at three o’clock in the afternoon, rather than nightfall, but been completely ignored by the people.
This has done little to alleviate the frustrations of the protestors, who come from all sectors of Ecuadorean society, including indigenous, students and workers. However, despite the mass mobilization, it is the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador who have taken a lead role in the attacks against the government. They have been so effective that they are now in a position to ask the Ecuadorean Armed Forces intermediate and guarantee security with any dialogue with the Government, stating:
“The indigenous peoples […] publicly request the Joint Command of the Armed Forces to guarantee intermediation and provide the necessary security to all the leaders that will make up the commission, as well as call for the representation of the Organization of the United Nations in Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference, Office of the Ombudsman, President of the National Assembly, State Attorney General’s Office and other State institutions, to guarantee and monitor the faithful fulfillment of the resolutions reached in this dialogue.”
The statement added that “the Ecuadorian army in the real conditions found in Ecuador, with this act will play a fundamental role in the history of our country, to ensure peace and constitutional order.”
However, what triggered all this chaos that even saw the government evacuate Quito for to the coastal city of Guayaqui?
Unsurprisingly, Moreno’s implementation of aggressive economic restrictions on the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has sparked this violent uprising. The October 1 announcement of a $2.2 billion economic package meant Moreno had to comply to a number of IMF demands; workers had their yearly 30 day holiday reduced in half; a 20% reduction in pay for temporary contracts; subsidies on fuel prices removed; a mass cull of public sector workers; and, cuts in public spending, to name some.
The mass uprising is directly attributed to the neoliberal reforms implemented by Moreno. This has been seen as a betrayal by Ecuadoreans as they voted in Moreno on the platform that he would continue Rafael Correa’s, Moreno’s predecessor, policies of economic sovereignty in a multipolar world.
“When neoliberalism came in the late 80’s, it stayed with us until the beginning of the century and was leaving disaster after disaster on the road. We had the long and sad neoliberal night,” said Moreno in an interview last Thursday.
His years in power is remembered as one of economic sovereignty, independent decision making and a legitimate care for his people. Between 1997 and 2007, Ecuador had a total of nine presidents, with none of them able to complete their mandate as a result of social revolts, strenuous general strikes and coups. When the Ecuadoreans are angry at their leaders, they really know how to get rid of them, a thought Moreno no doubt has in the back of his mind.
This trend was reversed by Rafael Correa, who ruled the country for 10 consecutive years, and held the first magistracy for the longest time since the early twentieth century, the result of a social and political pact that was based on a challenge to the existing neoliberal order. This has been completely reversed by Moreno.
The president is in an extremely difficult position and it seems that the possibility of enduring the outbreak lies in the military body and in the repression of the security forces, as long as it decides to advance in the line of the pack. Under Moreno, the U.S. military presence in the country has been reactivated under the program of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, firmly putting Ecuador in the U.S. sphere of influence and away from advancement’s Correa had made with Russia and China.
Moreno has simply dusted off the precarious situation he has put himself in and has rather put the blame on Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. Expectedly, the country’s corporate media also assigned the blame on Maduro without providing any evidence. This only demonstrates that Moreno needs U.S. help to protect his position. This comes as he attempts to divert attention and claim that Venezuela is a regional security threat, in accordance with the resolution adopted by the TIAR consultation body within the framework of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Ecuadoreans, despite being trapped by having to use the U.S. dollar as its currency, have been proud of their sovereignty. It is for this reason that Ecuadoreans had first mobilized in their thousands in solidarity to Julian Assange earlier this year when Moreno decided to give up the WikiLeaks founder to British police. This has not been forgotten by the Ecuadorean protestors with many of them making references to the Australian.
Although minor, the Assange factor is a contributing reason to the outrage against the Moreno government. Coupled with Moreno’s pro-U.S. stance, this has only added to the angst of the people against him as they seek to for closer ties with China and Russia to achieve economic sovereignty, something Correa had worked towards.
This has only created a perfect storm where anger, because of the betrayal against Assange, moving Ecuador’s military closer to the U.S., not advancing relations with China and Russia, and most importantly, the return of the IMF’s neoliberal repression to the country, has exploded into violence. Ecuadoreans know how to remove a leader they are not happy with, how exactly Moreno will respond to this spiralling situation, remains to be seen.