Ecuador: resumption of dialogue between demonstrators and government

Ecuador: resumption of dialogue between demonstrators and government

Representatives of indigenous demonstrators, on the streets for a fortnight in Ecuador to protest against the high cost of living, resumed on Monday the dialogue initiated on Saturday with the government, after announcing the continuation of the mobilization and having judged a first “insufficient” fuel price reduction offer.

At the start of the meeting broadcast on social networks, Leonidas Iza – leader of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), spearheading the protests – called on the government to carry out “a policy that can benefit the poor more”. .

During the first meeting on Saturday, already with the Minister of Government Affairs Francisco Jiménez, Conaie had only undertaken to consult its base to appoint a representative commission.

Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, did not attend either meeting.

He announced Sunday evening on television a reduction in the price of gasoline by 10 cents (of dollars) per gallon (3.78 liters) and the price of diesel also by 10 cents per gallon.

The price of fuel is the main demand of the demonstrators, with a one-year moratorium on the payment of bank debts of peasants.

The president of Conaie Leonidas Iza (C) dialogues with the representative of the government, in Quito, on June 27, 2022 (AFP – Rodrigo BUENDIA)

“This decision is insufficient,” La Conaie reacted in a press release on Monday, judging the offer “not up to the situation of poverty faced by millions of families”. For Conaie, the “struggle does not stop (…) and the protest continues”.

These fuel reductions – which would bring the price of diesel to 1.80 dollars (1.7 euros) and gasoline to 2.45 dollars (2.30 euros) – are below those demanded by thousands of natives mobilized since June 13.

La Conaie is demanding cuts of -30 and -35 cents, to $1.50 and $2.10 respectively. In less than a year, diesel has increased by 90% and gasoline by 46%.

As a sign of openness, the Ecuadorian president on Saturday ended the state of emergency declared a week earlier in six of the 24 provinces of the country most affected by the demonstrations, a condition of the protesters to start the talks.

He renewed his call for “dialogue” on Sunday evening, warning however “those who seek chaos, violence and terrorism (that they) will find the full force of the law”.

On Friday, he accused the demonstrators of wanting to “perpetrate a coup”.

– “Critical level” –

Quito, where some 10,000 indigenous demonstrators are gathered according to the police out of some 14,000 estimated in the country, is at the heart of the movement which affects 19 of the 24 provinces of the country.

Five demonstrators died in violence with the police in the country, according to an NGO. More than 500 people, civilians or members of the security forces, were injured.

Indigenous demonstrators in front of the basilica where negotiations are taking place, in Quito, on June 27, 2022 (AFP - Rodrigo BUENDIA)
Indigenous demonstrators in front of the basilica where negotiations are taking place, in Quito, on June 27, 2022 (AFP – Rodrigo BUENDIA)

The crisis is hitting the country’s economy already affected by the pandemic and closely dependent on oil revenues, the main export product.

The roadblocks that paralyze trade and the forced shutdown of more than 1,000 oil wells, particularly in the Amazon provinces, could, according to the government, lead to a total shutdown of black gold production in the coming hours.

“Oil production is at a critical level” and could cease if the situation persists, the energy ministry warned on Sunday.

Production, reduced according to him to 50% of normal, was around 520,000 barrels a day before the protests.

Production Minister Julio José Prado assessed the economic losses at a total of 500 million dollars (473.5 million euros).

– Dismissal procedure –

Under pressure from protesters on one side, President Lasso, a former banker in power since May 2021, is also threatened with dismissal by Parliament.

The parliamentary opposition – a majority but divided – blames him for the “serious political crisis” that is shaking the country.

A protester sharpens his wooden spear during negotiations between indigenous leaders and the government, in Quito, on June 27, 2022 (AFP - MARTIN BERNETTI)
A protester sharpens his wooden spear during negotiations between indigenous leaders and the government, in Quito, on June 27, 2022 (AFP – MARTIN BERNETTI)

Late Sunday evening, the parliamentarians again suspended, after seven hours of discussions by teleconference, their debate opened on Saturday on a possible dismissal. They must continue it Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. (4:00 p.m. GMT).

After the debates, the deputies will have 72 hours to vote. A majority of 92 votes out of 137 is required for the impeachment procedure to pass.

Mobilizations of the indigenous movement caused the fall of three presidents between 1997 and 2005.

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