In Guayaquil on Tuesday to dedicate a park and university, President Rafael Correa urged citizens not to participate in a large government opposition march planned for Thursday. The march will be led by long-time Correa opponent, Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot.
“This is a protest by rebels who do not represent the will of the people,” he said. “They represent the richest two percent of the population who don’t want the government to fulfill its obligations to Ecuador’s families. Stay away.”
Nebot has taken to the air waves, urging those opposing Correa’s policies to join the march. During a Tuesday morning radio show, he said, “We want to send a clear message to the president and the rest of Ecuador that we oppose his policies and disagree with the direction he is taking the country.”
Nebot disagreed with Correa that it will be a march of rich people who don’t want to contribute their fair share to the country. “That’s nonsense. This is about much more than the tax questions. It’s also about what the government has done to the pensions of retirees, about the confiscation of teachers’ retirement funds, and about the reduction of public sector wages. This a protest of a broad array of government policies that we think are wrong,” he said.
The government is warning that Nebot’s supporters could turn to violence and say that some may dress up as Correa supporters. Interior Minister José Serrano says he believes there will be an organized effort to portray Alianza Pais, Correa’s party, as a violent element. “We have identified groups we think are preparing provocations and violent action,” Serrano said. “They will try to make it appear that government supporters are part of this. We will hold Mayor Nebot accountable.”
Nebot responded that Serrano’s charges were an attempt to divert attention from the main purpose of the march. “Violence would serve the government much more than it would serve the people of Guayaquil and those who participate in the march. This is nothing but government propaganda.”
Quito political analyst Carlos Fernandez says that Correa is clearly worried about the march. “He is in a sensitive position at the moment and if Nebot can turn out tens-of-thousands of marchers it could mean problems for the government,” he said. “The president miscalculated the public reaction to his tax proposals and he is back on his heels at the moment.”
The march is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Av. 9 de Octubre in Guayaquil.