Police said Wednesday’s anti-government protests were mostly peaceful in Cuenca although small fires were set in several locations and tram service was interrupted on two occasions when demonstrators blocked the tracks.
At least three protesting groups — University of Cuenca faculty and students, the United Workers Front (FUT) and medical workers — came together late in the afternoon at the national government building on Parque Calderon to hear speeches attacking government policies.
Earlier, vendors at the Feria Libre market on Av. Las Americas protested against city management of public markets and lack of control of informal sellers. The group temporarily blocked traffic and passage of the tram, which suspended service for 35 minutes.
The protests were part of national campaign against budget cuts to public universities, lack of payment to public employees, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, changes to employment law and the government’s acceptance of loans from the International Monetary Fund.
“This is just the beginning of a national uprising against the failure of the government to serve the people,” said Cuenca FUT president Messiah Tatamuez. “Our brorthers and sisters were with us in the streets of Guayaquil and Quito today and we will return everyday until justice is done.” He added that the size of the protests in Cuenca and Quito were reduced by afternoon rain. “Our numbers and our voices will grow,” he said.
On Tuesday, leaders of various indigenous groups, including Conaie, said in Quito that they will join the protest in coming days.
In addition to the stoppage of the tram at Feria Libre, student marchers blocked the tracks for about ten minutes on Gran Colombia in the historic district.
A spokesman for the National Police said there were no violent incidents Wednesday and that most protesters wore face coverings.