Indigenous and labor groups plan Quito protests; Some cities could lose air service; Corporate tax reconsidered; April exports plummet

May 22, 2020 | 31 comments

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) is preparing for mass protests in Quito and says it will provide more details today. On Thursday, Leonidas Iza, president of the Cotopaxi Indigenous and Peasant Movement (MICC), member of the Conaie coalition, met with labor and student groups to plan street action against government budget cuts, elimination of fuel subsidies and changes to labor laws.

Leonidas Iza, left, leads a protest march in October 2019.

“We will strike for the return of the rights of workers and the people of Ecuador that have been taken away,” Iza said. “We will attempt to maintain health measures to protect our members from the coronavirus but our first interest will be restoring the rights of the people.”

He added that the protest will be broad-based, involving dozens of organizations, including the country’s largest labor group, the Workers United Front (FUT). “There will a mass mobilization of people in the streets and they will expand to the entire country if the government does not reverse its stupid and catastrophic decisions to deny labor rights and abolish fuel subsidies.”

The government acknowledged Thursday afternoon that lawful protests are a democratic right but says it will not tolerate violence or defiance of Covid-19 health emergency restrictions. “There is a difference between people protesting because they are dissatisfied with government policies and attempting to destabilize the country through violence,” said Juan Sebastián Roldán, Secretary of the Presidency. “Destabilization is a crime.”

Conaie protests against the government’s decision to eliminate gasoline and diesel subsidies paralyzed much of the country in October 2019 before the decision was reversed.

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Virus update

Cities could lose air service

The closure of Tame could leave five cities without air service.

The government says it is talking to three airlines about providing commercial service to Loja, Santa Rosa, El Coca, Esmeraldas and Lago Agrio, cities that are served exclusively by government-owned Tame, which will cease operations in June. Minister of Transport and Public Works Gabriel Martínez said talks with Latam, Avianca and Aeroregional began Wednesday. A spokesman for Latam-Ecuador said it is too early for any airline to commit to new routes given the disruption and financial loses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “First, we must reestablish service to Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and Manta and then we can look at other possibilities,” he said.

Tax on companies and the rich is reconsidered
Cabinet Secretary Juan Sebastián Roldán said Thursday that the Ministry of Finance may make a second attempt to apply a tax to large corporations and wealthy individuals. The plan to tax companies and workers as part of the Humanitarian Law was abandoned due to lack of support in the National Assembly, which passed the law last week. In a statement, the ministry said, “We are going to ask for a contribution from those who can afford to contribute the most.” The statement continued that the plan has no timeline.

Huge export losses reported
Non-oil exports decreased by $400 million in April, a 12 percent decline from April 2019, the production ministry reported. Shipments of bananas, cocoa, shrimp, tuna, other seafood and agricultural products saw the biggest drops, year over year, with the flower industry also suffering losses. The ministry said the latest numbers do not reflect total losses due to data carry-over from March. “We face a massive challenge to restore the export sector and are considering a variety of incentives, including tax cuts and deferments to producers,” said production minister Ivan Ontaneda. He added that he expects losses to be even greater for May.

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