Protests in Quito and Cuenca are peaceful as unions oppose new labor law and fuel policy
Thousands marched through the streets of Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil on Wednesday declaring their opposition to the government of President Guillermo Lasso. In speeches following the marches, leaders of labor, teacher, university student, agricultural and indigenous organizations attacked proposed labor law changes and the elimination of fuel subsidies.
The protests were mostly peaceful although farmers demanding more government support threw rocks and bottles at police attempting to clear highway blockades in Los Rios Province.
Among the groups participating in the national mobilization were the United Workers Front, the Ecuadorian Federation of Municipal and Provincial Workers, the National Union of Educators and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.
In Quito, union president Jose Villavicencio attacked Lasso’s proposed Law of Opportunities which he claims will take hard-won protections away from workers. “What Lasso wants to do is empower the big companies so they can increase their profits at the expense of employees,” he said. “He wants to put the workers of Ecuador on short-term contracts that can be terminated at the employer’s discretion.”
He also attacked government policies that please the International Monetary Fund. “Our government is beholden to outside financial interests, not to the interests of the people and this must change.”
Messiah Tatamuez, who represents trade workers, called for an end of private arrangements with corporations. “The president is selling the assets of Ecuadorians to the highest bidder, which will increase prices and bring more people into poverty,” He added that increasing fuel prices will also drive up the prices of food and other essential goods.
In Cuenca, Workers Front Vice President Oscar Reinoso said that Lasso cannot “hide behind the Covid pandemic,” saying he must now attend to the needs of the people. “The pandemic is ending and the president’s real intentions are being revealed. Yes, we had to fight the pandemic but that fight is ending and a new fight for workers’ rights and the rights of the people is beginning.”
In Los Rios and Guayas Provinces, angry farmers blocked highways as their leaders demanded higher price supports from the government and an end to free trade agreements which the say drive down the price of local products.