Indigenous-led protests force Ecuador to reverse fuel subsidy cuts ordered by IMF
Indigenous women arrive to protest at the National Assembly building in Quito, Ecuador, Saturday, Oct. 12. | Dolores Ochoa / AP

Ecuador’s government agreed Monday to reverse fuel subsidy cuts it had forced on the public in order to obtain an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan. The announcement to back away from the subsidy cuts is part of a deal to stop mass protests that had forced the government to flee the capital.

The deal was struck as a result of mounting pressure, led by activists from indigenous rights organizations, on President Lenin Moreno. A state of emergency was declared and a military-enforced curfew imposed in a bid to quell the growing dissent.

Under pressure from his new creditors, Moreno had previously claimed that the subsidies—which cost the government $1.3 billion annually—were no longer affordable. But following talks brokered by the UN and the Catholic Church, broadcast live on state television, he was forced to go back on this pledge and reinstate the subsidies.

Protest leaders in the negotiating room applauded as the announcement was made, while the president called the agreement a solution for “peace.”

Immediately after Decree 883—the executive order axing fuel subsidies—was revealed on Oct. 3, the prices of diesel and gasoline increased by up to 120% in some areas. It led to mass indigenous activism which swept through the capital city Quito and forced the temporary relocation of the government to the port city of Guayaquil.

Soldiers guard El Arbolito park in Quito, Ecuador, Saturday, Oct. 12. President Lenin Moreno ordered the army onto the streets of Ecuador’s capital to enforce a curfew after a week and a half of protests over fuel prices. | Fernando Vergara / AP

Jaime Vargas, president of the Ecuadorean Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE), argued during the talks that “the IMF and the right are managing the country.” Leonidas Iza, president of the Indigenous and Campesino Movement of Cotopaxi, called for a rethink of the entire economic system so that it “doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the lower classes.” Iza’s proposals include more taxes on the rich and the seizure of assets from corrupt officials.

He also felt that President Moreno’s claim that exiled former president Rafael Correa was behind the unrest “belittles the indigenous movement,” which has been responsible through protest for the toppling of three presidents in the last few decades.

According to UN representative Arnaud Peral, a new decree will now be drawn up by representatives of the indigenous protest movement in partnership with the government. CONAIE said it will “celebrate” this “victory for popular protest” but emphasized the need for caution until a further agreement is finally ratified.

Morning Star


Matt Trinder
Matt Trinder

Reporter at Morning Star, the English-language socialist daily newspaper, published six days a week in the UK.