From the November-December 2019 issue of News & Letters
It took 11 days of massive resistance, led by Ecuador’s revolutionary Indigenous masses alongside Afro-Americans, campesinos, workers, women, students, environmentalists, LGBT activists and others, to bring the government of Lenin (sic) Moreno to its knees.
Moreno had issued Executive Decree 833, which consisted of austerity measures that were conditions of a $4.4 billion International Monetary Fund loan. The biggest blow was the termination of decades of gasoline and diesel subsidies that nearly doubled the prices at the pump. In addition, the neoliberal package included privatization and anti-worker measures, expanded resource extraction, and the loosening of environmental protections. In other words, dealing with economic problems caused by the country’s dependence on oil/mineral extraction and monoculture by “belt tightening” on the backs of workers and the poor.
MASS POWER IN THE STREETS
Tens of thousands took to the streets, congregating in the capital, blocking roads, occupying government buildings, and disrupting oil operations. They forced the government to declare a state of emergency, and then the government turned tail and fled from Quito to Guayaquil.
The government response to the protests was brutal. Police and military flung tear gas and shot rubber bullets at crowds of protesters. Police brutality was rampant. In the end there were seven deaths, over 1,300 seriously wounded and nearly 1,200 arrests.
After eleven days Moreno caved in and agreed to rescind Decree 833 in exchange for a “dialogue for peace” with the Indigenous leadership. His government survived to live another day and is expected to be hard line in its so-called dialogue. There no doubt will be attempts to divide and conquer, and it is quite possible that another uprising could happen in the near future.
‘SOCIALIST’ DRIFT TO THE RIGHT
After a military dictatorship in the 1970s, mostly right-wing parties ruled Ecuador until the so-called “citizens revolution” of Rafael Correa in 2006 and his newly minted Alianza País political party. Like most social democrats calling themselves socialist, once in power hope for change morphed into cronyism, opportunism and corruption. The drift to the right culminated in the full-fledged Pompeo-supported neoliberalism of Correa’s former vice president, Moreno. In the upcoming presidential election, parties even further to the right are poised to take power.
The struggle for a “new society” in Ecuador has taken a giant step forward, but it will be met with fierce resistance by the ruling oligarchy and the mainstream media. Change can only come from below, and that is a lesson that has been underscored this month for Ecuador, but also for all of Latin America.