Ecuador to lower fuel prices, protesters not happy

Ecuador to lower fuel prices, protesters not happy

Indigenous demonstrators, on the streets for fifteen days in Ecuador to protest against the high cost of living, announced Monday that they were continuing the mobilization, judging “insufficient” the lowering of fuel prices announced the day before by President Guillermo Lasso.

“This decision is insufficient,” reacted Monday the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), spearhead of the demonstrations, after the announcement of the Head of State.

The decision “is not commensurate with the situation of poverty faced by millions of families”, reacted Conaie in a press release signed by its leader, Leonidas Iza, adding that “our struggle does not cease (. ..) and the protest continues”.

Sunday evening, President Lasso announced on television to reduce 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.

These cuts will bring the price of diesel to 1.80 dollars (1.7 euros) and gasoline to 2.45 dollars (2.30 euros). But they are less than those claimed by thousands of natives who, since June 13, have been demonstrating, blocking roads or occupying oil wells in the Amazon provinces.

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%.

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

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

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.

– The economy hit –

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.

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

“Oil production is at a critical level” and could cease within 48 hours if the situation persists, with “vandalism, seizure of wells and road closures”, warned the Ministry of Energy 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).

In Parliament, at least twenty deputies have yet to speak in the debate on the impeachment of the president, opened at the request of deputies supporting the former socialist president Rafael Correa (2007-2017).

On Saturday, Mr. Lasso had 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 for the demonstrators to start the dialogue.

A first attempt at a discussion between leaders of the indigenous movement and several government ministers had taken place at the same time under the auspices of the President of Parliament, Virgilio Saquicela.

– “Serious crisis” –

In Parliament, the majority but divided opposition blames the president for the “serious political crisis” that is shaking the country.

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.

Sunday was calm, without procession in the streets of Quito, where the demonstrators remained to rest in particular in an indigenous cultural center and two universities which they occupy.

On Sunday evening, Mr Lasso renewed the call for “dialogue”, 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”.

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

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