Protesters block Pan American highway in Imbabura Province, demand reinstatement of fuel subsidies

May 25, 2021 | 17 comments

The Indigenous Federation of Imbabura set up roadblocks on the Pan American highway in several locations in Imbabura Province Tuesday morning in protest of higher diesel and gasoline prices. The Federation is demanding that President Guillermo Lasso reinstate the subsidies eliminated last year by the government.

Protesters blocked the Pan American highway near Otavalo on Tuesday morning.

The roadblocks are in the cantons of Otavalo, Cotacachi and Antonio Ante but the federation is encouraging other indigenous alliances to establish blockages in other areas of the province and throughout the entire inter-mountain valley of Ecuador. Strikers are also asking trucking companies and taxi owners to join their effort. “Our protest is local but fuel prices affect the entire county and it is our hope that our strike spreads to other sectors,” the federation said in a statement.

As of noon Tuesday, protesters had placed piles of soil, rocks stones and logs on the Pan American and set fires in several locations, saying they intended to block all traffic between Imbabura and Pichincha Provinces. “Our goal is to paralyze all travel on the Pan American (E-35) between the borders of Colombia and Peru,” the statement said.

ECU 911, Ecuador’s emergency response service, said police were on the scene at several roadblocks negotiating with protesters to allow traffic to pass. “It is against the law to block government roads and to impede the circulation of vehicles,” a spokesman for the service said.

Municipal and parish officials were also in discussions with protesters in an attempt to open access they say is critical to their communities. Inter-provincial bus traffic has been suspended in several towns, including Otavalo, Cotacachi and Imbaburapac Churimi Canchic.

Former president Lenin Moreno ordered a gradual reduction in fuel subsidies in May 2020, with prices of diesel and gasoline expected to reach international market rates in August. During the presidential election campaign, Lasso said he supported the elimination of subsidies.


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