Despite roadblocks, officials say Conaie strike is not a ‘repeat of 2019’; It’s ‘business as usual’ in Cuenca

Jun 13, 2022 | 3 comments

Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo says he and other government officials are relieved that the national strike called by the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) is not a repeat of October 2019. In a late morning assessment of the strike and the government’s response, he said 20 to 25 roads and highways have been blocked by protesters nationwide, far less than the 200 blocked on the first day of the 2019 protest.

University of Cuenca students burned tires outside the Azuay povincial government building on Parque Calderon Monday morning.

“A big difference today from 2019 is that the transportation and transit sectors are not participating,” Carrillo said in Quito radio interview. “Because taxi owners and the bus and truck drivers were blocking the roads in 2019, the country was paralyzed. Today, we are faring much better.”

He said he expected the road stoppages to continue for several days. “The police are busy dismantling blockages to allow the passage of traffic but protesters are restoring them in some cases and we expect this to continue for a period of time. There have been isolated cases of violence but not many. There have been no arrests.”

He added that some traffic stoppages are the result of peaceful marches on the highways. “This is happening in Chimborazo and Cañar Provinces and south of Cuenca,” said. “This is the right of citizens and police are on the scene to redirect traffic.”

In Cuenca, city officials also expressed relief that strike disruptions were “minimal.” According to a spokesman for Mayor Pedro Palacios, there were no obstructions to traffic or other workday activities. “It is business as usual for most Cuencanos,” said Carlos Ramirez. “Schools, public offices and businesses are open and report no problems. We have experienced none of the street blockages we saw on the first day of the 2019 protests.” He added that morning protests in Parque Calderon were peaceful.

About 20 members of Azuay Province Council of Indigenous Communities gathered at the Parque Calderon gazebo at 10 a.m. to express their support for the national strike. An hour later, an estimated 200 University of Cuenca students marched from campus to the park, many carrying signs complaining of inadequate higher education funding and admission restrictions.

Protesters listened to speeches and chanted outside the municipal and provincial government buildings. Before disbanding, they burned tires at the intersection of Calles Luis Cordero and Simon Bolivar.

Elsewhere in Azuay Province, National Police report road closures in Santa Isabel and Nabon. They also say the Pan American highway is closed in Saraguro, just south of Azuay, in Loja Province.

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