Government warns it will use force if today’s national protests turn violent

Oct 22, 2020 | 17 comments

Interior Minister María Paula Romo says that police will “take whatever measures necessary” to keep today’s national protests peaceful. “We have received reports that outside actors intent on creating violence will infiltrate today’s marches,” she said. “We are on alert for lawlessness and will not tolerate incidents such as those that occurred in the 2019 protests.”

Cuenca labor leaders at a Wednesday press conference in Parque Calderon. (El Mercurio)

Organized by the Unitary Workers’ Front (FUT) and Popular Workers’ Front, Thursday’s protests in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca are expected to draw thousands of union members, students, teachers and unpaid government and private sector employees.

In Quito, the police command has mobilized 1,200 police personnel to monitor the march while several hundred will be on duty in Guayaquil and Cuenca. National police commander Alain Luna said that police are prepared to respond to violence if it erupts. “We intend to do our job to protect peaceful protesters as well as the public.” He added that units of the military are standing by to provide support if necessary.

According to protest organizers, the labor unions are being joined by student and teacher groups as well as government workers unions, and expect “tens-of-thousands” to join marches throughout the country. The FUT is demanding changes to government policy affecting workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly to the Humanitarian Law intended to protect employment. It is also demanding that full funding be reinstated for public universities, that fired public employees be rehired and that the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) be terminated. In addition, it demands that unpaid public employees be compensated immediately.

The government responded to the FUT last week, saying the economic crisis does not allow most of its 17 demands to be met.

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At a Parque Calderon press conference Wednesday, Cuenca labor leaders said marchers are responding to “government lies” and its failure to protect workers and students. “They say that unemployment in Ecuador is less than eight percent but they know that it is more than 30 percent,” said Oscar Reinoso, president of the FUT of Azuay. “They pretend they are helping those who have lost their jobs or who are going unpaid but, in fact, they do nothing.”

Marlene Novillo, leader of the Popular Front of Cuenca, insisted that the government agreement with the IMF is a “betrayal of the people’s trust” and that an increase in the IVA from 12 percent to 15 percent will not be tolerated.

In Cuenca, Thursday’s protest march will begin at 5 p.m. at San Blas Plaza, proceeding up Simon Bolivar to Parque Calderon.

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