Claiming he “won’t be pinned to the wall” by threats of labor and indigenous protests, President Guillermo Lasso said Thursday he is working on social and economic solutions that benefit the entire population. “My job is to do what is in the interest of the Ecuadorian people, particularly the most vulnerable. It is not to bow to the pressure of particular interest groups,” he said.
His comments came following threats this week of mass protests by the United Workers Front (FUT) and and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie). The FUT plans nationwide protests on Wednesday, August 11, while Conaie said it would consider a mass mobilization if Lasso does not yield to a set of demands it announced Wednesday.
Although the complaints of the labor and indigenous movements differ on several points, both are demanding the reinstatement of fuel subsidies, which were abolished by former president Lenin Moreno but supported by Lasso.
Lasso says he is working on a “targeted fuel price support” for the transportation sector, including buses, taxis and trucking companies. “We have been reviewing ways we can address the problem as it affects the public, particularly thepoor people,” he says. “There is no need to subsidize gasoline and diesel for the use by the mercantilists and capitalists or for wealthy people who drive expensive cars.”
Several municipal bus systems, including Cuenca’s, are threatening work stoppages over rising diesel prices. Local governments say their hands are tied in terms of providing support since the elimination of subsidies and subsequent rise in prices was ordered by the national government. “I understand the dilemma for municipalities and transporters and we are working on a solution that will keep fares at current rates if possible,” Lasso says. “Because of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic this is not the time to raise prices.”
In an interview Thursday, Lasso said he would not allow protests that paralyze the country, such as the two-week indigenous strike in October 2019. “My job is to find answers that benefit everyone and help us restore the economy.”