Thursday’s national protests lacked the size and drama of those staged last July and August, according to national police. Only a handful of injuries or arrests were reported.
Protest organizers had predicted that 50,000 would participate throughout the country but police said less than 10,000 showed up.
Protesters from organizations representing a variety of causes rallied in Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil and several other cities to oppose government policies. In Cuenca, groups of retirees, military personnel, workers, women’s rights advocates, and indigenous populations marched and rallied throughout the day, the largest gathering in the late afternoon in Parque Calderon.
A morning rally opposed last year’s withdrawal of $40 million in monthly government support for the Social Security system. Protesters claim the action, aimed at making the system self-supporting, endangers pensions for retirees.
In the larger, late afternoon rally, speakers in Parque Calderon denounced labor reforms passed yesterday by the National Assembly, claiming they weaken the rights of workers. The reforms allow employers to reduce work hours in cases where layoffs would otherwise occur, and eliminate the minimum wage for younger workers in some cases.
In other speeches, retired military personnel opposed the recent removal of $41 million in funds from a military retirement fund after the government claimed that it was the result of an over-charge in a real estate deal. Other protesters complained about slow progress in women’s rights and the removal of local control of rural water supplies.
Several tires were set on fire by protesters on the Simon Bolivar march route and in Parque Calderon, but they quickly extinguished by fire fighters.
The number of protesters in Cuenca was estimated by police to be between 300 and 400.