Quito business and professional groups plan to fight National Assembly amnesty for protesters; Some say they will arm themselves for future riots
Representatives of more than a dozen business and professional associations pledged Friday to fight the National Assembly’s grant of amnesty to 268 people arrested during political protests, including 60 who participated in the October 2019 protest against former president Lenin Moreno.
In addition, the groups said at a press conference that they will begin a petition drive to remove from office the 99 Assembly members who voted for the amnesty.
Patricio Alarcón, former Quito Chamber of Commerce president and restaurant owners, said the vote has “infuriated” the people of Quito. “Many of those exonerated in this action were thieves, vandals, arsonists and kidnappers,” he said. “There were even two cases of rape that will now be ignored. We are outraged at this legislation and we will fight to have it invalidated and to hold those who voted for it accountable.”
Alarcón says that business and property owners will protect themselves in the case of future riots. “We will organize ourselves and, if necessary, arm ourselves to protect what we have worked hard to build. If October 2019 happens again, anyone who commits acts of vandalism to our property should be prepared for the consequences. Since the government let us down last time, we will take the law into our own hands.”
Based on government estimates, Alarcón says the October 2019 strike cost Ecuador more than $800 million in property damage, lost wages and revenue. “It is not only Quiteños who object to this illegal action, but the good people of Cuenca, Riobamba and Ambato who suffered during the uprising.”
Quito attorney Andres Castillo said the Assembly’s action may be illegal. “I think in the cases of those who committed violent acts against people and property the amnesty is unconstitutional. We will take this to the courts, all the way to the Constitutional Courts if necessary.”
Castillo said that amnesty may be justified in some cases. “Our focus is on those arrested during the October 2019 riots and those who committed criminal acts,” he said. “I’m sure there are cases among the 268 when arrests were unnecessary and amnesty would be legitimate. During the Correa and Moreno years, many people were arrested in environmental protests and protests supporting women’s rights. Some of these probably warrant pardons. Our objection is to blanket amnesty that does not consider individual cases.”
Castillo added that civil suits are another avenue of pursing justice if his group’s effort fails. “The amnesties relate only to criminal arrests and there are other remedies for those who have been harmed. There is also the issue of property damage. Those involved in damaging public and private property are still liable for the expense of repair.”
Returning Saturday from the inauguration of Chile President Gabriel Boric, President Guillermo Lasso repeated his objection the Assembly’s vote. “Blanket amnesty for hundreds of people, without a review process, cannot be tolerated,” he said.
“It is outrageous that the criminal acts committed in Quito and other cities can be excused and I will do everything within my power to see that this act does not stand,” he added. “It is unfair to citizens who suffered from this criminality as well as to police and military personnel who risked their lives to protect the citizens of Ecuador.”