Twelve days that shook Quito

By Alfredo Fernandez

Photo from Quito, Ecuador: Dolores Ochoa/AP

HAVANA TIMES – The violence that took center stage in Ecuadoreans lives since the beginning of the month up until Sunday October 13th, when president Lenin Moreno revoked Decree-Law 883 (which did away with diesel and regular fuel subsidies), after twelve days of protests in Quito and Guayaquil. This cut in fuel subsidies came part of a series of measures laid out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Ecuador in exchange for its loans to the country, as there is a heavy imbalance in Ecuador’s balance of payments to the organization.

Immediately after the measure was announced, most Ecuadoreans were upset, although quite a few economists presented it as the lesser of two evils in the press, as the other option meant the government increasing VAT (value added tax) from 12% to 15%, which would force business owners to make personnel cuts and could frighten off foreign investment.

With president Moreno’s administration already very unpopular (he only has 15% of the people’s support), the announcement of fuel prices being hiked up was the last straw and made the indigenous community (only 7% of the total population) storm cities such as Quito and Guayaquil so as to prevent this decree-law from being passed.

In the beginning, right at the beginning, it just seemed like a march of indigenous peoples living in Ecuador. However, in a matter of hours, looting began throughout Quito and in some areas of Guayaquil.

The violence that had begun in the center of Quito, in the form of a protest, spiraled and took over the entire city: burning tires at crossroads, and some barricades… this was the image of a protest where bus and car windshields were smashed so that the city would come to a standstill and lead to not only a drop in fuel prices, but also president Moreno’s exit.

While the indigenous movement managed to achieve what it had set out to, i.e. stop fuel prices from going up, they had a Pyrrhic victory, as society in Quito and Guayaquil felt vulnerable like never before, which could accentuate racism towards this population group of Ecuadoreans, who are already quite marginalized.

The chaos, disorder and lack of security that sunk Ecuador for twelve days is being analyzed by many sectors of society today, not only as a weakness of executive power, but also as the excessive use of protest by indigenous peoples, which is even worse.

While the indigenous movement tried to cover up any kind of collaboration with former president Correa, this is still unclear today, and protestors burning the Government Accountability Office is a concrete example against the indigenous people, as the only Ecuadorean who had any interest in the disappearance of this institution was Rafael Correa, who began a political trial on October 17th, with a long list of charges that could see him spending dozens of years in prison.

Some of the analysts I’ve read, try to distance former president Correa from the events so as to refocus the conflict as simply the Ecuadorean people vs. the IMF, which I believe is far from the truth. The IMF is a moneylender, and like every financial organization one goes to, it imposes its own repayment rules so that it gets its money back. I believe that the confrontation that took place in recent days in Ecuador can be interpreted using the logic of analyst Samuel Huntington and his “Clash of Civilizations” theory.

Clinging to an age-old mindset, where collaboration in the community became a full-time business of blood ties, the indigenous people believe that the State is also a part of this brotherhood, and if it isn’t, it owes them. “We inherited this land from our ancestors” (read here: the country), therefore it has to obey its designs, so they will never understand the wickedness implied in burdening the State with unnecessary subsidies, which distort the national economy, in the development of a modern-day society.

After Venezuela, Ecuador has the second cheapest fuel in the world. This lends to the Ecuadorean State diverting three billion USD every year, in addition to what it already loses in fuel subsidies, to fight oil smuggling to Colombia and Peru, where Ecuadorean fuel is used to produce all of the cocaine produced in these countries, by the way.

It is worth pointing out that if Moreno’s government had approved of raising fuel prices, Ecuador would still have the second cheapest fuel in the entire world. 

Ecuador’s indigenous peoples were the tip of the iceberg of the protest in Quito, but they weren’t the only ones as some working class groups were also interested in keeping oil prices as they are. The recent rearming of part of Colombia’s FARC showed just how vital it is for them that Ecuadorean oil prices remain the same, even more so than for the indigenous movement, as cocaine production costs (the main source of revenue for this guerrilla group) would go up 25%.

On the other hand, former president Correa, backed by the Venezuelan government and using Venezuelan criminals to go to Ecuador, paid off juvenile delinquents to put up their hoods and destroy businesses, buses and taxis who dared to defy the strike.

To tell you the truth, after the strike that shook the very foundations of Ecuador’s democracy for twelve days, the country lost its fame for being an island of peace within the region. It was known for being the one of the only countries in Latin America where serious social protests never took place.

After recent events, Ecuador has become a country so violent that Mr. Jaime Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador  (CONAIE) can call the democratically elected president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, a “lame shit”, clearly referring to his physical handicap. I can’t even imagine what political correctors would be doing now if it had been the other way around.

This is the state of things on this side of the world. In Chile, young people have now “spontaneously” (according to another Leftist analyst) burned down 19 metro stations in Santiago to protest the 30-cent increase on its fare. The reality is that the outrage in Santiago, which is as much or even more excessive than the outrage in Quito, has left the city without a metro and it needs a multi-million dollar investment to repair it.

On the other hand, Mr. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s indigenous leader turned president many a time, appears to have committed mega fraud to stay at the head of this nation yet again.

The truth is that Diosdado Cabello’s prediction (the Venezuelan regime’s number 2), that “this is just the breeze before the hurricane” has been right on the money, just like the plan outlined at the last Sao Paulo Forum in Caracas and the Progresivamente Forum in Puebla. 

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