The leaders of a national strike planned for August 13 want to distance themselves from the anti-government protesters who rallied last month in Guayaquil and Quito.
“We are people of the left,” said Lauro Sigcha, who led a protest march three weeks ago that temporarily blocked the PanAmerican highway, south of Cuenca.
“People think we are part of the protests of Lasso and Nebot in Guayaquil, but we have nothing to do with them. They are people of the right and we disagree with them on most things,” said Sigcha, who is president of the Federation of Peasant Organizations of Azuay.
The problem of distinguishing left-wing and right-wing protesters will be even more difficult when dozens of groups with various interests stage protest marches around Ecuador leading up to the national strike. Strike leaders, from indigenous, labor, teacher, and student groups, among others, say they hope to keep the protest focused on the issues of the left, but admit that they will be joined by some right-wing opponents of President Rafael Correa’s government.
“Both the right and left oppose the policies of this government,” says Severino Sharupi, Vice President of the indigenous organization, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, or CONAIE. “We intend, however, to make this our protest. There will be a few protesters of the right but I think 98% will represent the left.”
Protest leaders will hold rallies in the country’s larger cities on August 13, and plan to block highways into the major cities. It is not clear how long they intend to maintain the roadblocks. They say however, that their efforts are not intended to destabilize the government, as Correa has claimed, and that protests will be peaceful.
Correa says that right-wing opponents, such as Jaimie Nebot and Guillermo Lasso are orchestrating the national strike and that left-wing protesters are being used for the purposes of the right. “This is a sham and it is too bad that these people are being led by the conservative restoration,” he said.
Leftist leaders have refused to participate in Correa’s “national dialogue” to discuss tax increases. Although they oppose the proposed increase in the inheritance tax, they say there are other government policies that they object to. Among their complaints are new rural water management rules, mining rights, the elimination of the government’s 40% contribution to the Social Security system, and the plan to eliminate subsidized LP gas.