Ecuador: Fed up with Neoliberalism but Divided

By Ángel Guerra Cabrera on June 16, 2022

general strike in Ecuador, photo: RTVE

The indefinite national strike against the savage neoliberal policies of President Guillermo Lasso called by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) together with other social organizations entered its third day yesterday. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the president of the indigenous group Leonidas Iza was arrested by the army and released the following day with alternative measures by order of a judge.

The social situation of the country is dramatic. The people are suffering and it comes not only from the unforgivable governmental neglect of the pandemic. They are also suffering from serious deficiencies in the solution to all their basic needs.   However, the call for the strike has not corresponded in magnitude with the latent social unrest, nor is it comparable with previous mobilizations not far away in time.

Later I will refer to what I consider to be the root cause of this insufficient call; especially in the case of the Ecuadorian people and the indigenous movement, which have admirable traditions of social and popular struggle.

Four years of Lenín Moreno’s government, who betrayed the Correa movement as soon as he sat in the Corondelet palace, swept away most of the important social conquests and national sovereignty achieved during the two presidential terms of Rafael Correa. That is why a little more than two years after taking office, Moreno had to face the combative national strike of October 2019, led by CONAIE, to which he responded with fierce repression that cost 11 deaths and hundreds of injured. Moreno and Lasso, who co-governed in the shadows with the former, opened the doors again to the indebtedness of the country with the IMF and the adjustment plans imposed by the latter.

To the desolate social panorama created by the administrations of both characters, the consequences of the international increase in fuel and food prices have been added – in the face of a State that has failed to fulfill its social responsibility. Government support for small producers has been eliminated and the education and public health systems, which were greatly strengthened during the Correa administration, have been dismantled. The serious damage caused by mining and oil exploitation to indigenous territories and ecosystems has increased. The national strike calls for urgent solutions to these problems.

Its central demand is that fuel prices be lowered and that fuel increases, which occur monthly, cease, as they are unaffordable for indigenous people, small producers and, in general, low-income people, together with the rise of the entire basic food basket.  Also suffocating indigenous people and peasants are the starvation tariffs paid for agricultural products and bank credits, which in these circumstances lead to foreclosures and the ruin of families. For this reason they demand a moratorium and a renegotiation of their debts.

The economic asphyxiation is unbearable for indigenous people, rural and urban workers, small and medium entrepreneurs, and even for many professionals. Lasso’s popularity has fallen in the short year he has been in office. He, with accounts in tax havens, has been pointed out as one of the great beneficiaries of the 1999 financial crisis that wiped out tens of thousands of savers and brought the country to economic prostration. A member of an old family of bankers from Guayaquil and a banker himself, he has long enjoyed the benefits of financial speculation under the protection of power. How he will be benefiting now that he occupies the presidency. Hopefully the strike will be successful and would at least bring relief to the shortages of the majority of Ecuadorians. But the division in the popular camp and the lack of a lucid political leadership prevent the masses from organizing themselves as needed and the popular movement from presenting a united front before a surrendering government, before the financial speculation that raises prices and undermines production, before the cruel demands of the IMF. The CONAIE is internally divided and, at the same time, there is a ditch between it and Correism due to intransigence and errors on both sides.  The people of Ecuador have fought important and historic battles against neoliberalism, have overthrown several neoliberal presidents, almost always with very important participation of CONAIE. It deserves a supreme effort of the popular, indigenous and leftist leaders of the country to overcome their differences and agree on at least a single anti-neoliberal platform of struggle, leading to a new popular government. May the homeland of Rumiñahui and Eloy Alfaro once again occupy a place of vanguard in the struggles of Latin America and the Caribbean for its emancipation and unity.

Source: La Pupilia Insomne, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English