Teachers, health workers and transportation unions say they will take to the streets and highways to protest government plans to hike gasoline prices.
The National Citizens Assembly, composed of bus and truck drivers, teachers and health care workers, said Wednesday it will conduct protests and strikes in major cities against higher gasoline prices as well as other government policies it considers right-wing.
“We announce to the country that we will carry out mass mobilizations until the government repeals the increase in the price of gasoline and eliminates all the neoliberal economic policies that affect Ecuadorians,” said Wilmer Santacruz, teachers union president. “It is clear now that the government of President of Lenin Moreno represents the interests of large corporations and not the people.”
The first protest by the citizens assembly is scheduled for today in Quito’s El Arbolito Park, Santacruz said.
In addition to labor groups, organizations representing owners of public buses and trucking companies plan to mount protests in the coming days and weeks. “The government says that public transportation will not pay higher fuel costs but we don’t believe it,” said Lorenzo Lara, who represents several Quito-based bus companies. “What they announced Tuesday is only the beginning of higher prices that will soon affect everyone.”
On Tuesday, the government announced that the price for “Extra” and “Ecopais” gasoline, will increase by 37 cents a gallon, from $1.48 to $1.85. This followed an August increase for high-octane “Super” from $2.19 to $2.98 a gallon. According to Moreno, the increases are necessary to combat a budget deficit.
Despite the fact that Finance Minister Richard Martinez says registered taxi will not pay higher fuel prices, taxi owners worry about a “creep to higher costs.” Jorge Calderón, president of the National Taxi Federation, says he does not trust the government. “We are watching this very closely and are prepared to defend our interests,” he said.
On Wednesday, Calderón objected to the government’s plan to reimburse taxi owners for the 37 cent different between the new gasoline price and the old one. The government said it would deposit $50 per month into the accounts of taxi owners.
“This is unreasonable since we have no reason to believe this will cover the higher cost,” Calderón said. “We are demanding that the lower prices be charged to [taxi] drivers at the gas station. This way, we avoid the extra bureaucracy get the price we are promised.”
A spokesman for Moreno said Wednesday that the new policy will help owners since only registered taxis will receive the fuel reimbursement. “Unlicensed and informal taxis and vans will not benefit and this provides an advantage to those who operate legally,” he said.