Protest against government policies is peaceful but fails to draw a big crowd; organizers claim Correa is attacking labor unions
Thursday afternoon’s protest march and rally opposing the government of President Rafael Correa drew an estimated crowd of 1,000 in Cuenca, far below the 5,000 that organizers had predicted.
In Santo Domingo Plaza, the group which had marched from Parque San Blas, heard a variety of speakers attack the president accusing him of abandoning the ideals of the left in favor of commercial interests, bankers and international trade. Some speakers also accused him of a smear campaign to discredit their cause by suggesting that they had joined forces with conservatives who also oppose the government.
The protest was organized by labor unions and indigenous groups but attracted a variety of other leftist organizations, including Ecuador’s Anarchist League, gay rights group and the National Communist Front. Other marchers protested new government tariffs on imports, strict government labor regulations and failure of local governments to control informal vendors on city streets.
More than 300 police and soldiers were positioned along the march route and in Santo Domingo Plaza, but no violence was reported.
Bolivar Izquierdo, the president of the national teachers union (UNE) in Azuay Province, and one of the march organzisers, accused Correa of attempting to destabilize and weaken the rights of unions. “We need to see a change of government policies in its approach to the rights of workers and we need to see it soon,” Izquierdo said. “The president has abandoned workers and if this does not change, we will plan a national strike,” he said.
Other speakers accused Correa of smearing leftist causes by claiming they are part of an attempt at “conservative restoration.”
“We are leftists and we resent the president saying we are aligned with forces of the right,” said Pedro Parra of Santa Isabel. “This government is the one that has joined the right, not the workers,” he said.
The Cuenca protest was one of 14 held around the country on Thursday. The largest, in Quito, was soaked by heavy rains and, like in Cuenca, failed to draw the predicted crowd. According to national police, there were not major incidents of violence during protests.