Oct. 10 — The great people’s strike has exploded in Ecuador.
Today is the eighth day that road traffic in Ibarra, a city with a population of 250,000, has been completely shut down, with no buses or taxis running. It is the sixth day of suspended classes for all students.
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the United Workers Front (FUT) called a national strike for Wednesday, Oct. 9. That call came in the wake of the massive paralyzation of the country that began with a general strike of transport workers on Oct. 3.
People had already taken to the streets in cities all over Ecuador on Oct. 2 to protest Pres. Lenín Moreno’s Decree 883, which ended state subsidies for gasoline and diesel fuel. Ending these subsidies was part of a package of austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund, measures that many here call the “paquetazo.”
Decree 883 was the last straw for the people who have endured two years and four months of Moreno’s systematic, unconstitutional dismantling of his predecessor Raphael Correa’s impressive welfare state.
In Ibarra a crowd of at least 1,000 marched to confront the appointed governor of Imbabura province at the security service ECU-911 building. Citizens, including taxi drivers and teachers, vendors and government workers, were shouting “Out Moreno! Out!” and “Down with the paquetazo.” A large banner declared: “Imbabura Resists!”
Ecuador rising up in resistance
Ecuadorians have risen up in every city, town and community to demand the end of the Moreno government. The country’s north-south Pan American highway is still blockaded by well-organized Indigenous people in many places. In some provinces, such as Pastaza and Cañar, people are occupying government buildings.
Due to the seizure of oilfields in the Amazon, a loss of $12.8 million U.S. in revenue is reported. Accounts from various provinces use the word “chaos” to describe unfolding events.
Resumen Latino Americano reported today: “The Ecuadorian Ombudsman’s Office confirmed the death of five people, including an Indigenous leader (Inocencio Tucumbi), during eight days of national protest against measures ordered by the regime.”
On Oct. 7, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Ecuador, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, expressed concern about the excessive use of force by the government. People are saying that the repression has managed to unite Ecuadorians — quite the opposite of the desperate intentions of the hypocrite and traitor Moreno. (resumenlatinoamericano.org, Oct. 10)
Quito is the national capital and second-most-populous city of Ecuador, located high in the Andes Mountains. Already on Oct. 7, thousands of Indigenous people approaching Quito from the south encountered two armored vehicles blocking the highway at the Santa Rosa curve in Tambillo. A tweeted video shows the people pushing a burning tank onto the grass and down an embankment. (tinyurl.com/y5dor49j)
Fifty thousand peaceful protesters, led by the CONAIE Indigenous movement, are in the streets of the historic center of Quito along with workers, peasants and people from all sectors of society. On the morning of Oct. 9, hundreds of Indigenous people made history by holding a People’s Assembly in the National Assembly building before the forces of repression ended the occupation with tear gas. The Eugenio Espejo Hospital across the street from the National Assembly was similarly gassed, provoking outrage among the people.
Tens of thousands marched and are marching for the National Strike/Paro Nacional in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city located on the Pacific Coast. Mayor Cynthia Viteri and former Mayor Jaime Nebot (Partido Social Cristiano) of Guayaquil organized what to all appearances was a fascistic right-wing march on Oct. 9 “in defense of Guayaquil.” This was after the two rightist leaders urged followers to stop “outsiders” — that is, Indigenous people − from entering the city, claiming they were coming to “trash” it.
An Indigenous man speaking with great emotion in both Quechua and Spanish in the Guayaquil region was recorded saying: “There are more than 500 people from Chimborazo province in Guayaquil. … You Social Christians say, ‘Indios go back to your mountains, you are not going to take a step in Guayaquil.’ Carajo! You live here thanks to us!
“If nothing passes from Chimborazo to Guayaquil you will all die of hunger. … Let’s get radical and not send anything from Chimborazo to Guayaquil. … If we let them die of hunger, that’s the only way they will understand.”
#FlashBananero/#QUITO reported in tweets: “Indigenous leaders in El Arbolito Park (Quito) declared the mayor of Guayaquil, #CynthiaViteri, persona non grata due to her regionalist, racist and incendiary statements.”
Cuartel Militar Yaguachi is a military base located on the outskirts of Esperanza, 7 miles south of Ibarra on the road to Cayambe. That city is in an agricultural area 27 miles from Ibarra. The rural population around Cayambe is primarily Indigneous.
Armed forces from Yaguachi used extreme violence to repress the Indigenous community of Caranqui people who went into the streets to protect the Esperanza community.
Councilwoman Betty Romero of Ibarra called on all citizens to collect water and food to support the besieged community of Esperanza, where some 1,500 people were reported to be in the streets yesterday. People have answered her call.
When a resident of Ibarra purchased large quantities of rice, sugar, salt, tuna, noodles, oatmeal and cooking oil to send in solidarity with the people under siege, they had a nice surprise. When the vendor learned the produce was for Esperanza, they lowered prices significantly and added bags of cookies.
On Oct. 9, Indigenous people who live near the Yaguachi military base reported that a community leader who was shot at the beginning of the uprising on Oct. 3 has returned to the struggle. Many have been wounded on both sides. But the newspaper Diario El Norte reports that the Minister of Defense claims there have been no injuries. Communities are organizing to deliver food to isolated homes to help people deal with shortages.
An Indigenous person who lives in a community near Cotachachi, not far from Ibarra, is in Quito with comuneros [groups of Indigenous peoples acting collectively] in the national uprising. Today he told of the occupation of the National Assembly and said the people would again try to take it over. He added that a call has gone out all over the country to occupy government buildings.
Álvaro Castillo is the appointed governor of Imbabura province. Neither Castillo nor the mayor of Ibarra welcomed 4,000 Indigenous comuneros of all ages who had marched for hours on Oct. 7 to deliver a manifesto to the governor.
The people came from the nearby communities of Atuntaqui and Antonio Ante, and even further from Otavalo and Cotacachi. People said that Castillo refused to leave the ECU-911 building to meet them.
On the other hand, councilperson Betty Romero and around 50 members of the local Revolucion Ciudadana (Citizen’s Revolution — Rafael Correa’s party) waited to greet the marchers with food and water as they entered the city.
Hundreds and hundreds of these same Indigenous marchers could be seen on Oct. 8 taking food and resting by the Ibarra train station. Scores of mounted police and cops with shields, wearing full body armor and gas masks, stood ominously on the perimeter, ready for action.
Well-organized and highly disciplined, the Indigenous marchers calmly formed a people’s assembly in front of the cops. They repeatedly chanted, “Take off your masks,” and finally after about five anxious minutes the cops complied with the demand.
Leaders stressed that they had come in peace and that the march was not about politics. A manifesto was drafted on the street as everyone waited, and it was made public with a portable sound system in both Quechua and Spanish. The demands were: Restore the fuel subsidy eliminated by Decree 883. End the state of exception [executive martial law]. Lenin Moreno must resign. Stop sending military and police into Indigenous communities. The people stated: We will not permit our communities to be invaded with impunity by the armed agents of the state. We expect to meet with the governor.
Diario El Norte reported that Castillo did meet with the Indigenous leaders, without satisfying any of their demands. He also met with transport leaders and social organizations, failing to satisfy their demands. The newspaper reported that some of the roads around the city have been reopened at least partially.
The amount of information coming from a multitude of sources reporting locally in Ecuador is almost overwhelming. Today, no one can predict the outcome.
The writers will continue to monitor developments and participate with the people. ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!