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Guillermo Lasso in Crisis: Protests in Ecuador Exceed the Week

The Government of President Guillermo Lasso orders the mobilization of military and police forces to control more than 9 days of protests in Ecuador.

Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador

Photo: TW-lassoguillermo

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Guillermo Lasso en crisis: protestas en Ecuador sobrepasan la semana

10 days have passed since the demonstrations and marches led by indigenous movements that have Ecuador in crisis. The demonstrators demand control of fuel prices, which due to the global rise due to the crisis in Ukraine, has generated an increase in prices and inflation in several countries, Ecuador being one of these.

Figures from the AFP agency warn that the price of diesel went from 1 dollar to 1.9 dollars per gallon, and gasoline has gone from US$1.75 to US$2.55 so far this year. This brings back memories of the 2019 protests that caused a similar crisis in the face of the attempt by the government of Lenin Moreno to eliminate the gasoline subsidy.

However, these are not the only requests from the group of protesters. The collective also calls for a series of social and economic measures, such as the protection of indigenous territories, increased public spending, and employability policies.

The requests were framed in a list of 10 proposals:

  • Reduce fuel prices
  • One-year moratorium for families that have a debt with the financial system.
  • Set fair prices for farm products.
  • Respect collective rights.
  • Do not allow mining exploitation in protected territories.
  • Guarantee labor rights and employability.
  • Guarantee and not privatize strategic services
  • Measures to improve security.
  • Increased budget for health and education.
  • Control price speculation.

The Response of the Lasso Government

In the first instance, Lasso tried to stop the spark of unemployment since Friday by announcing an increase in the monthly subsidy received by the most vulnerable families, going from 50 dollars to 55.

Although the current Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, has held a dialogue speech, he has also sent the public force and police to guarantee mobility.
Given the progress of the marches and clashes between police and protesters, the Government decreed a state of emergency in 6 provinces: Pichincha (Quito state), Cotopaxi, Imbabura, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, and Pastaza.

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The protests have already left roadblocks, which have generated shortages in some municipalities. Additionally, there have also been clashes between police and protesters that have left one person dead and several injured and detained.

Who is Behind the Protests? 

The protests are led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador, Conaie, and its leader Leonidas Iza, who has been gaining relevance since 2019, when the protests against former President Lenin Moreno and his rise in fuel prices generated a national revolt.

The Threat of a Coup

A discourse that has become widespread within sectors related to the Lasso government is that this demonstration only seeks to overthrow the president. Despite the fact that there is no clear evidence of such a claim, they have recognized the strength of the opposition in Congress. Even in dialogue with the Colombian station Blu Radio, General Fausto Salinas, commander of the Ecuadorian Police, insinuated that there were also hidden interests within the demonstration and that they are financed by drug trafficking or illegal mining groups.

Now that the demonstrations have reached Quito and that the violence may escalate, Lasso is faced with a major dilemma between giving in to the aspirations of the protesters or maintaining a firm position. For now, the pressure in Congress is also increasing. The legislature approved, with 81 votes in favor (of a total of 137), a resolution that requires the Government to propose a dialogue and that a talks table be established with the participation of the UN, the Red Cross, the universities, and the Catholic Church.