Ecuadorean General Strike Wins Concession on Fuel Subsidies; Workers, youth and indigenous communities lead the struggle to overturn neo-liberal energy policy

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By Abayomi Azikiwe

After days of mass demonstrations and work stoppages, the Ecuadorean people have illustrated their revolutionary tradition in the ongoing battle against the imposition of austerty.

Beginning on October 3, people responded angrily over the withdrawal of fuel subsidies which had been in place for four decades.

The government of Lenin Moreno, adhering to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditionality, announced the new economic program which resulted in the sharp rise in the price of diesel by 100% and petroleum by 30%. These price increases happened over night making it impossible for many working people and farmers to pay for their household expenses.

These hyperinflationary trends also resulted in the rise in food prices and the cost of transportation. The Moreno government initially rejected the demands of the unions and mass organizations saying that fuel subsidies had cost the country over $60 Billion.

An additional series of labor and tax measures were specifically designed to make Ecuador eligible for a $4.2 Billion loan from the IMF. As part of the austerity package, a 20% cut in salaries for public sector workers was enacted along with the reduction in vacation time from 30 to 20 days annually.

These huge price increases and reduction in pay proved to be the spark which ignited broad sectors among the working class and peasantry into action. With a minimum wage of only $394 per month, the material impact of the IMF imposed policy would drive many more people into abject poverty.

On the first two days of the austerity program, October 3 and 4, unions representing workers in the taxis, buses and trucking sectors went on strike blocking roads and consequently paralyzing the entire country. After talks with the government, the transport unions called off their strike after October 4.

Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of others representing the Indigenous people, students, mass organizations and local transportation workers, entered the streets demanding that the IMF imposed measures be revoked. These demonstrators blocked traffic prompting clashes with police resulting in the deaths of eight people, 1,300 injuries and the arrest of over 1,100 others.

The mass resistance continued during the week of October 7 even after Moreno had declared a national security emergency. The administration was forced to move its operations outside the capital of Quito to Guayaquil due to the intensity of the clashes between the workers, farmers and youth against the security forces.

Members of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) led the demonstrations in Quito where they blocked streets along with the entry into key government buildings therefore choking off the ability of the state to conduct its normal business. After intense confrontations with the police, there was extensive property damage and arson.

Moreno was forced to hold direct talks with CONAIE. The alliance of Indigenous nationalities refused to negotiate until the government reinstated the fuel subsidy program.

Indigenous groups have grievances which extend beyond the recent price increases. They are opposed to the extraction of natural resources from their traditional lands which have created tensions with successive governments over the last decade….

 

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