Once again, it is the soaring gasoline prices that set fire to the powders, in a country on the verge of social conflagration. On Wednesday, the demonstrations continued in Quito and in about sixty cities of Ecuador: the protesters contest, at the call of the unions and the influential Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), the economic policies of the president, Guillermo Lasso , a wealthy banker whose Pandora Papers shed light on sophisticated practices of tax evasion and evasion. On October 22, he announced an increase in fuel prices of up to 12%, before the freeze of the monthly increase adjusted to international prices, in force since 2020. His predecessor, Lenin Moreno, himself had was shaken, in October 2019, by a popular uprising against his austerity choices, triggered by an increase in fuel prices: after twelve days of demonstrations and clashes, he had to backtrack.
Tear gas grenades and rubber bullets
Target of a preliminary investigation after the revelations on the cascade of offshore companies which allows him to prosper his fortune in the United States, Lasso had taken the initiative: on October 20, he had declared a state of emergency for a period of time. sixty days, and deploys the army in the streets. Officially, to cope with the rise in violence due to the bloody war being waged, even in prisons, by local gangs affiliated with Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers cartels – the crime linked to this trafficking has killed 1,900 people since the beginning of the year.
From the first calls to demonstrate, the Head of State called on his supporters to “defend” the capital, qualifying critics of his policy as “putschists”. And on Tuesday, a violent crackdown fell on the demonstrators, targeted by tear gas grenades and rubber bullets. In the old historic center of Quito, at the gates of the Carondelet Palace, seat of the presidency, the police, on motorcycles and on horseback, chased the protesters.
Ironically, the presence, among the demonstrators, of Yaku Pérez, the environmental candidate for the presidential election, who had contributed in April, by his calls to vote white in the second round, to defeat the left-wing candidate Andrés Arauz, however came well ahead of the first round. The party which had put his candidacy, Pachakutik, and which he left since then, is engaged in a “serious and sincere dialogue” with Guillermo Lasso, in search of support, in Parliament, to pass his tax reform and that of the labor market, demanded by the IMF. As for the unions, the central Cedocut, which opposes these reforms, promises a rise in mobilization. Without excluding the prospect of a national strike.