Protesters who had occupied a Quito park for 10 days have broken camp but the leaders pledge to continue what they call a ‘national uprising’ in local communities.
The move to leave El Arbolito Park apparently signals the end of the first phase of a national strike called by indigenous groups opposed to the government of President Rafael Correa. Leaders say protest activities will continue in smaller towns, particularly in the Andean region of the country.
The protest that began on August 13 has left more than three hundred police and demonstrators injured and has resulted in the jailing of about 50 protesters.
Marco Guatemal, vice president of the indigenous organization Eucarunari, said his group plans more demonstrations in September to demand the release of those arrested during confrontations with police. “First, we will march for the release of our brothers and sisters being held in the government’s jails,” he said. “Then we will pursue the objectives of a new mobilization.”
Protesters have a long list of complaints against the government of President Rafael Correa, including an amendment that would allow Correa to seek another term. They also object to new water management rules in rural areas, mining and oil exploration, the government’s withdrawal of support for the social security system, and a possible increase in inheritance taxes.
Besides Quito, which saw violent confrontations between protesters and police on August 13, the largest protests have focused on road closures in several locations on the Pan American Highway between Quito, and Loja, and in Macas in eastern Ecuador. In Saraguro, between Loja and Cuenca, 26 protesters were arrested during clashes with police last week.
Beyond incidents of pushing and shoving between protesters and police on August 13, Cuenca has seen no violence.