Several hundred protesters of proposed changes to the country’s labor laws marched up Calle Simon Bolivar Wednesday afternoon to join a rally in Parque Calderon. The march also attracted supporters of several other causes, including the ones opposed Cuenca’s light rail system and the amendment that would allow President Rafael Correa to seek another term as president.
Other marches protesting the labor law changes were held in Quito, Guayaquil, Manta and Loja.
Although the speeches in Parque Calderon focused on labor law, it was clear from marchers’ signs that the protest represented a “grab bag” of objections to government policies and Correa’s presidency.
“Our message to the government is that we are tired of changes that take away the rights of the people,” said Tanya Ramos, who carried a sign demanding a public referendum on eliminating term limits for public office. “We want a change in the way the government treats the people and demand the right to vote to allow Correa to run again.”
Those marching against labor reform objected to measures they say limit the rights of public employees to organize and the elimination of the so-called 13th and 14th month salaries that would distributed throughout the year under proposed changes.
Azuay Province prefect Paúl Carrasco, a political opponent of Correa, expressed solidarity with the workers and said he would “work for a policy of democracy and openness” in the dialogue between the central government and the labor movement. “Today, our rights are being challenged and taken away,” he said.
Especially vocal among protesters were those trying to stop Cuenca’s tram project. “We demand the people be heard on all the issues, including the train,” said Carlos Heredia. “The city government is not listening to our objections to the new train and we demand that they do. We will fight this project to the end since it will damage the heritage of our neighborhoods.”
Among the protesters were The Cuenca Union of Workers, the national United Workers Front, and the Union of University Students, the Young Communist League, the Yasunidos Collective, opposed to oil drilling in Yasuní Park, and the indigenous groups ECUARUNARI and CONAIE.
Photo credit: El Tiempo.