Conaie considers anti-government protests; Ban on air and bus travel continues through May; U.S. promises ventilators and other supplies

Apr 28, 2020 | 56 comments

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) warned Sunday that protests against government policies are under “serious consideration.” In particular, Conaie objects to the elimination of fuel subsidies and new taxes proposed by President Lenin Moreno.

Conaie President Jaime Vargas read Conaie’s warning statement to the press on Sunday.

“We have been ignored in our requests that the government refrain from instituting economic measures that jeopardize the social welfare of Ecuadorians, especially the elimination of gasoline subsidies,” Conaie said in a statement. “We also object to taxes on poor Ecuadorians that the president has reccommended. We will not be held responsible if the people rise up in defense of their rights.”

The statement said that there would be no protests during the current Covid-19 health emergency. “We will not endangered the health of the people but will use this time for planning purposes,” the statement continued.

Protests organized by Conaie against the elimination of fuel subsidies brought Ecuador to standstill for three weeks in October 2019. Following talks, the government backed down, reinstalling the subsidies.

Conaie said it has instructed its members in the National Assembly to oppose a tax on workers that earn less than the living wage and insisted that the tax be paid by wealthy citizens and large corporations.

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The indigenous organization also claims that the health impact of Covid-19 falls heaviest on indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian populations and that the two groups require additional assistance to combat the disease and to recover from it. It also claimed that the government has failed to clean up the oil spill that resulted from the rupture of the Trans-Ecuadorian pipeline near the San Rafael waterfall earlier this month.

Virus update

Complaints about Covid-19 case count
Some local officials are complaining about the lack of details in the latest counts of confirmed Covid-19 virus cases. The government increased the number of confirmed cases by more than 10,000 on Friday when it added results from backlogged tests but has not updated infection numbers in cantons and parishes since then.

In addition, some officials expressed confusion about Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos’s Sunday statement that the official count only includes cases involving the sickest patients and does not provide a “broad-spectrum” view of the virus spread. On Sunday, Zevallos said he believes that at least a million Ecuadorians have been infected.

Monday’s count of confirmed cases stood at 23,240 with 663 deaths and another 1,138 considered probable but not confirmed. Cases by province are: Guayas, 10,172; Pichincha, 1,194; Los Rios, 662; Manabi, 514; Santa Elena, 334; and Azuay 314.

The government says 1,138 patients have recovered.

Air travel, inter-provincial bus service ban continues in May
Despite the relaxation of some health emergency restrictions on May 4, Interior Minister María Paula Romo said Monday that the prohibition of provincial bus service and air travel will remain in place through the month of May. The prohibition will be evaluated in mid-May, she said.

U.S. sends ventilators, other supplies to Ecuador
The United States will send ventilators to three Latin America countries, including Ecuador. In a statement on his Twitter account, President Donald Trump acknowledged the “terrible situation” in Guayaquil and said the U.S. planned to help its “friends and neighbors.” In addition to Ecuador, U.S. assistance will go to El Salvador and Honduras.

Interior minister denies government disagreements
Interior Minister María Paula Romo said Sunday that the government of President Lenin Moreno stands united in the face of the health and financial crises. “The rumors circulating on social media have no basis and many of them are malicious,” she said. “All elements of the government are in complete agreement regarding the policies to restore physical and economic health to Ecuador.”

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