Indigenous groups, trucking and bus companies join today’s labor protest; Some roads already blocked

Aug 11, 2021 | 14 comments

The leaders of the United Workers Front (FUT) welcomed three indigenous organizations and heavy transport and bus companies to the labor protest that begins this afternoon. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), Ecuarunari and the Pachakutik political party announced that they would join in the mobilization.

Although labor and indigenous leaders say they don’t want a repeat of the October 2019 riots, they say it is up to the government to avoid it.

Although the groups have different lists of grievances with the national government, the rallying cry is that subsidies for diesel fuel and gasoline be reinstated.

“Rising fuel prices punish all Ecuadorians, increasing transportation costs and the prices of essential goods and services,” says José Villavicencio, president of the General Union of Workers of Ecuador, one of several labor groups joining FUT. “Putting the subsidies back into effect is non-negotiable and we will remain in the streets until this is done.”

In addition, labor is demanding a freeze on the cost of transportation tickets, an end to Ecuador’s relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adoption of public policies that provide employment opportunities and repeal of labor policies that allow employers to use short-term contracts.

Conaie, which says it may mount a separate protest later in the year, is also demanding that criminal charges be dropped for about 600 supporters arrested during the October 2019 protests.

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Although President Guillermo Lasso has promised to provide targeted subsidies for the public transportation and trucking sectors, he has yet to present a proposal. Leaders of those sectors say they cannot wait.

The indigenous Pachakutik political party and Ecuarunari announced Monday they were joining forces with Conaie to join today’s protest. “The Pachakutik movement will not sit idly by in the face of the social and economic crisis facing the people of Ecuador,” organization president Marlon Santi said at an indigenous press conference. “We will take the streets as a united front.”

Conaie’s Leonidas Iza claims that Lasso is “turning the same deaf ear” to the people as former president Lenin Moreno. “We hope we do not witness the violence that occurred in 2019 but the anger of those who have been left behind is extreme. We want the fuel situation fixed, the conditions of the IMF dropped and an economy the supports the people installed.”

Although protest marches are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., police report that trucks and buses began blocking some roads near Guayaquil and Quito early Wednesday morning. Organizers say the protest will focus on Quito but there will marches in other cities as well.

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