Ecuador’s National Assembly will consider pardons as soon as next week for 267 participants in the October 2019 anti-government protest. The 11-day protest resulted in six deaths, hundreds of injuries and an estimated $200 million in property damage in Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil and Riobamba.
Among those seeking pardons are 27 people arrested for destroying public documents and setting the Comptroller’s headquarters in Quito on fire. Seven protesters arrested in Cuenca are also asking for amnesty.
Prosecutors say that the protests resulted in about $40 million in damages to public buildings and infrastructure and much more to private property.
In addition to those arrested, about 60 protesters remain under investigation, including Leonidas Iza, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, who insist that their cases be closed.
Iza and others members of the indigenous movement are demanding full pardons for all those arrested, claiming that they were involved in acts of political expression, not common crimes. “We were mobilizing against the criminal acts of the government and had every right to take control of the streets,” Iza said. “It was [former president] Moreno who should have been arrested.”
Assemblyman Mario Ruiz of the Assembly’s Pachakutik party agrees. “Amnesty should be granted for all participants of this historic uprising, not only for those who can prove their innocence. Most of those accused of violence were protecting themselves from the violence of the police.”
President Guillermo Lasso says pardons should be granted only to those who can prove they were not involved in criminal acts. “The mobilization caused great damage to the country and those who committed acts of vandalism, thievery, arson and kidnapping should be punished as criminals.” He says he will veto any Assembly action that offers blanket pardons.
Lawyers for many of those arrested claim their clients are farm workers, college students and businessmen wrongly accused of violence and property destruction. Ángela Porras, who represents several protesters, says that the cases of many of those arrested have not been adjudicated. “My clients and many others are not criminals and their cases should be dropped and their records wiped clean. The situation has gone on for too long without resolution and represents a failure of the country’s legal system.”