Threat of coastal highway blockages is renewed; FIFA investigates Ecuador fan behavior at World Cup; Cotopaxi and Sangay volcanoes are smoking
The National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Black Organizations (Fenocin) said Tuesday that it will begin “local, sporadic highway stoppages” because the government has delayed a decision to forgive debts of up to $10,000 to certain economic sectors.
“We cancelled our November 15 strike based on assurances that the debts of farmers, artisans, fishermen and small entrepreneurs would be forgiven but nothing has happened since then,” said Fenocin President Gary Espinoza. “Our patience is running out and we will take to the highways on a limited basis until we have a satisfactory agreement. If the government reneges, we will mobilize to block all coastal provinces.”
He added that the provinces affected by the stoppages are Los Ríos, Guayas, Manabí, El Oro and Esmeraldas.
During 90 days of negotiations with indigenous groups, including Fenocin, the government agreed to cancel debts of up to $3,000 held by the Banco Nacional de Fomento and the Social Security Institute. Following the talks, Espinoza claims Government Minister Francisco Jiménez had assured him that $10,000 debt forgiveness would be applied to coastal debtors and that President Guillermo Lasso would issue a statement to that effect.
“Minister Jiménez lied to us and the country when he announced there would be a decree on November 17 or 18,” Espinoza said. “We are tired of the lies.”
On Tuesday, Finance Minister Pablo Arosemena said debt forgiveness of $10,000 would be an “unacceptable burden” on government banks. “We agreed to $3,000 but granting more will put our financial system at risk,” he said. “There are other methods to help those having difficulty paying debts, such as loan restructuring and rescheduling.”
Other indigenous and social groups have so far not announced active support for the Fenocin protest. On November 13, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) said it supported Fenocin’s demands but would not participate in its protests. “This is a regional action involving people on the coast and they will conduct their own mobilization,” said Conaie President Leonidas Iza.
Ecuador fan behavior in Qatar upsets FIFA
FIFA, the international football governing body, said Tuesday that it is investigating the behavior of Ecuadorian football fans during last week’s World Cup opener with Qatar. If it determines that fans “insulted or disparaged” other countries, fans or teams, Ecuador’s football federation could be fined.
In its statement, FIFA did not specify the crowd actions it found objectionable but they are believed to be chants aimed at Chile, whose football federation attempted to have Ecuador disqualified from the World Cup. Ecuador fans also chanted, “We want beer,” in English and Spanish, in response to the Qatar government’s decision to ban beer sales at the stadium two days before the match.
Some Qatari fans also lodged a complaint with FIFA about signs displayed by Ecuadorians that read, in English, “Money can’t buy you love,” a possible reference to claims that Qatar bribed FIFA officials for hosting rights to the games. The word “love” has also been widely used to protest Qatar’s rejection of gay, women’s and workers’ rights.
Two volcanoes are smoking
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute said Tuesday that the Cotopaxi and Sangay volcanoes remain in a “heightened level of activity” but pose no immediate threat of eruption. It noted that gas and ash emissions were observed 500 to 1,000 meters above the Cotopaxi crater but said ashfall was restricted to the area adjoining the volcano.
The Institute said that small lava flows were a “continuing occurrence” down the flanks of Sangay and that light ashfall is being recorded in areas west of the mountain. Last week, it reported that part of the volcano had fallen away, creating a large ravine on the south side of the mountain and said that further collapse is possible. Sangay is located in Morona Santiago Province, 80 kilometers northeast of Cuenca.