Participants in Sunday’s May Day parades in Ecuador made it clear that this year’s event was more than a symbolic march for the rights of labor. “We are making a statement that we are in complete opposition to the government in Quito,” said Jose Ramos, vice president of the Cuenca United Workers’ Front. “We are protesting the privatization of public services and properties, the looting of the public treasury for the benefit of industry, and all the neoliberal policies of [President] Guillermo Lasso.”
A crowd estimated at 1,000, representing a dozen labor unions and student and social organizations, marched through Cuenca’s historic district Sunday morning, gathering to hear fiery speeches at Parque Calderón.
In Quito, police estimated that 5,000 to 7,000 marchers heard speeches, most of them attacking Lasso, in Plaza San Francisco, just blocks from the presidential palace. Union leader César Zapata urged those in the crowd to sign a petition demanding Lasso’s impeachment. “This is the beginning of a movement to bring down a government that insults workers and glorifies capitalists,” he said. “Today we are being polite but in the months ahead, there will be massive uprisings in the streets and we will be much more forceful in demanding that our rights are respected and that the government serves the people.”
In addition to protesting privatization plans and favors for big business, marchers carried signs protesting Lasso labor law changes and demanding that the country’s health care system be upgraded and that its debt be paid. “The government of Rafael Correa raided the IESS system and Lenin [Moreno] and Lasso lied to us that the funding would be restored, but nothing has changed,” said former Quito Social Security health care director Alex Iglesias. “Today, the system is near collapse. It is out of medicine and members wait months for appointments.”
In Cuenca, union president Mesías Tatamuez said corruption is the “over-arching” issue for the labor movement. “The government wants to make us look like coup plotters but, on this international day for labor, we are saying that corruption must end, the government must be put back in the hands of the people. This is the message we will repeat today, tomorrow and forever, and our voices will get louder and louder until our objective is achieved.”
Other May Day parades were held in Machala, Esmeraldas, Guayaquil, Quevedo and Guaranda. According to authorities, the marches were generally peaceful with only “minor disruptions” reported. In Guayaquil, a police officer is recovering from facial burns suffered by a fireworks blast.