In a series of nationwide protests Wednesday, labor unions demanded that the National Assembly defeat President Guillermo Lasso’s investment law, claiming it would lead to the privatization of government functions.
The protest marches in Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil were peaceful, with turnout lower than union and police predictions.
In Quito, barricades were erected along the parade route to Plaza de Santo Domingo in the historic district. The march began at the headquarters of the national Social Security Institute.
In Cuenca, several dozen protesters marched without incident to Parque Calderon where they cheered speeches by union officials.
“We are pleased to report that the president’s neo-liberal investment bill is headed for defeat in the Assembly,” said United Workers’ Front president Ángel Sánchez in Quito. “We say, no to privatization, no to the reactionary plans of the government to take away the assets and rights of citizens.”
President of the National Union of Educators Isabel Vargas claimed that the rights of teachers have been ignored by Lasso and that her union will soon present a list of demands to the government. “The president says there is no money to increase the salaries and we say he can find it if there is the will,” she said. “Nothing is more important to the future prosperity of Ecuador than building a first-class educational system.”
The National Assembly passed legislation two weeks ago increasing the wages of public school teachers without including a mechanism to cover the estimated $600 million cost. Lasso said he is open to “gradual” pay increases but has not offered details.
Protest leaders conceded their disappointed in the size of protests but said the marches accomplished their goal. “We always said they would be peaceful and they were,” Sánchez said. “We delivered our message loud and clear and are confident that members of the National Assembly were listening.” He added that more protests are planned.
Popular Front president Nelson Erazo said that continuing concern about the Covid-19 pandemic was a factor in the low participation. “Obviously, people are still scared of being part of mass events but we think this will change. We are also aware that we need to do a better job of focusing on issues that people are concerned about. Maybe we have difficulty with the relevance of our message.”