Conflicts & War

Roadblocks set up at start of social protests in Ecuador

Quito, Jun 13 (EFE).- Roadblocks were set up in some Ecuadorian provinces at the start of indefinite, nationwide demonstrations on Monday, a social protest launched to demand better economic conditions and improved public safety.

The Integrated Security Service (ECU 911) reported road closures in the Andean provinces of Pichincha (whose capital is Quito), Tungurahua, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, as well as in the Amazonian province of Pastaza.

Early Monday, authorities said a score of roads had been blockaded in 11 provinces but indicated there were no reports of violence.

In the district of Oyacoto, north of Quito, Efe said the demonstrators barricaded a road and forced dozens of people to walk to their workplaces or to different schools that were offering in-person classes despite the protests.

Wilson Pavon, police commander of Quito’s Metropolitan District, told Efe that other blockades affected a road linking two valleys near Quito but that heavy machinery would be used to remove the debris.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso warned Sunday that no acts of vandalism would be permitted during the protests.

“We’re not going to allow roads and highways to be blocked. We’re not going to allow the occupation of oil wells or any public service,” he said.

Leonidas Iza, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) – one of the protest organizers – said the demonstrations were called after three failed attempts at dialogue with the government last year – on June 11, Oct. 4 and Nov. 20.

Lasso said in his message that now that the pandemic has been brought under control and the economy is starting to bounce back “political groups looking to destabilize and further agitate the situation cannot be allowed to paralyze the country once again.”

Among other things, the demonstrators are demanding lower fuel prices and economic relief, including both a moratorium on debt payments for at least a year and a reduction in interest rates.

They also are calling for fair prices for farm products, more employment opportunities and respect for labor rights, a moratorium on the expansion of boundaries for mining/oil operations and an auditing of and payment of reparations for the environmental impact of those activities.

The protesters also want more government spending on health care and education and on public safety measures to halt a wave of organized crime, drug trafficking and kidnappings.

The protests, which do not involve the public transport sector, are being held at a time when a state of emergency is in place in three coastal provinces Guayas, Esmeraldas and Manabi racked by high levels of drug trafficking-linked violent crime.

During a late 2019, Conaie-led protest against then-President Lenin Moreno’s administration, the disturbances effectively brought the country to a standstill between Oct. 3 and Oct. 13.

Those protests and riots, which left 10 dead and more than 1,500 injured, including 435 members of the security forces, were triggered by a decree that eliminated decades-old fuel subsidies.

On Oct. 14, 2019, Moreno signed a decree that returned the fuel subsidies to their previous levels. EFE


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