Leaders of President Rafael Correa’s Alianza Pais party on Thursday called for an “open, unrestricted and unconditional” national discussion of Correa’s proposals for inheritance and capital gains tax increases. The call was made by Pichincha Province Prefect Gustavo Baroja at a Quito press conference hours before more protests against the government were staged in Quito and Guayaquil.
It was the first time that representatives of Correa’s government had called the tax proposal a “mistake.” The problem was not necessarily with the proposal itself, Baroja said, but with the fact that the public had not been fully informed about it. The press conference was attended by local mayors and city council members, as well as by officials of the national government.
Although protests resumed in Quito and Guayaquil following Pope Francis’s three-day visit to Ecuador, they were smaller than those staged before the papal visit.
In his call for dialogue, Baroja said that all sectors of Ecuadorian society should participate, including business, labor unions, rural farming cooperatives, and local elected officials.
“It was a mistake to send these tax proposals to the Assembly National without prior dialogue,” Baroja said. “Now we have the time to correct that and to begin talking.”
Baroja’s remarks are in sharp contrast to recent statements by Correa in which he said talks would not include some opponents who he said were leading protests and, in some cases, plotting a coup. In an interview with CNN, he repeated his claim that his amended inheritance and capital gains tax proposals would only affect the richest two percent of the population.
At the press conference, National Secretary of Planning and Development Pabel Muñoz said he hoped that those opposed to the taxes or other government policies would chose dialogue over street protests which, he said, accomplished nothing. “We hope the passage of time during the Pope’s visit will allow some people to reconsider the method of opposition and join us in dialogue.”