Concerns about that violence would erupt during Thursday’s anti-government protests proved unwarranted as the number of protesters fell far short of organizers’ predictions.
National Police reported “minor incidents” in Quito but said the marches in Cuenca, Gauyaquil, Riobamba and other cities were uneventful. In Cuenca, hundreds of steel barricades dropped off in several locations around Parque Calderon went unused. “We put them in place in case there was violence but protesters were peaceful and they were not needed,” a police sub-commander said.
Protest leaders from the Unitary Workers’ Front (FUT) and the Popular Workers’ Front had expected “tens-of-thousands” to march throughout the country but police said the total in 14 protests did not reach 5,000. “By our count, there were 800 to 1,000 participating in Quito, 500 in Guayaquil and 300 in Cuenca,” police spokesman Pablo Rodríguez said Thursday night. “We were prepared for violent activity but, fortunately, it did not occur.”
Oscar Reinoso, president of the Cuenca FUT, blamed the low turnout on the Covid-19 pandemic. “There is a great deal of anger toward the government but people are afraid of large gatherings because of the virus. We understand this and respect the people’s right to determine their individual safety.” He said that new protests will be organized as the pandemic threat subsides. “Our fight is just beginning and it will intensify and grow with time until we receive justice for the workers of Ecuador.”
In Quito, a national FUT spokesman said that the decision of several indigenous groups not to join the protests kept numbers down. “The indigenous have been disproportionately affected by Covid and the leaders decided not to expose members to potentially unsafe conditions,” she said.
Protest organizers said that Thursday’s marches were aimed at reversing government policies they say have led to high unemployment of public and private employees. They are also protesting government agreements with the International Monetary Fund, the sale of public assets, the reduction in university budgets and several provisions of the Humanitarian Law.