Ecuador's turmoil turns violent
Why is it happening ?
In 2017, Lenin Moreno was elected President of Ecuador, a country which, like many others in the region, has struggled with large foreign debt. The previous presidency of Rafael Correa, in order to expedite development projects around the country, agreed to receive oil-back loans from China. This has put Ecuador’s economy under a great burden, due to the global decrease in oil prices.
In a proclaimed effort to transform the Ecuadorian economy and create distance between Ecuador and China, Mr. Moreno struck a deal with the IMF in March 2019. The IMF approved a $4.2 billion support plan to be deployed over the course of three years with the “aim to create a more dynamic, sustainable, and inclusive economy for the benefit of all Ecuadorians”
On 2 October, President Moreno declared a series of measures that will be taken to revitalize the Ecuadorian economy. The most notable among the IMF-imposed austerity measures is the suspension of fuel subsidies, which the government claims to be a necessary cut, as they are no longer affordable. This announcement triggered nationwide protests, which have now turned violent and forced the Government to declare a state of emergency. Transportation workers, indigenous groups, and young people are enraged, and since last week Quito has been in complete chaos. Incidents of vandalism and violence have caused for a curfew to be imposed, and Mr. Moreno has temporarily moved his government to the port city of Guayaquil.
As of the 14 October, the Ecuadorian government has agreed to repeal the law suspending the fuel subsidies in an effort to stop the protests as a result of a deal brokered by the UN and the Catholic Church. However, at its base, chaos is still expected to continue in Ecuador.
Why does it matter?
The situation in Ecuador matters for a multitude of reasons.
The political blame-game has started.
President Moreno claims that the riots have been orchestrated by the former president, Rafael Correa, in collaboration with Mr Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator. While no proof has been given to support this claim, Mr Moreno ensures that the current situation must have been organized by someone with political intentions. Mr Correa denies such allegations and claims that the current national chaos is a natural response to the inefficient presidency of Mr Moreno.
Mr Moreno has lost popularity with support ratings less than half of what they were at the beginning of his presidency. For now, he showed no intention to retract all of the austerity measures, which has only further the turmoil. IMF intervention has once again caused national revolts. The austerity measures are perceived as another method to reward the power of global capitalism, punishing the poor hard-working Ecuadorians. This is not new rhetoric, and the consequences of IMF neoliberal intervention is starting to be questioned.
Latin American economic instability strikes once again
Venezuela and Argentina are the two notorious Latin American examples of instability fueled by years of outrageous social and public spending. Seeing the situation in Ecuador we can only get a sense of déjà vu, which forces us to reflect and consider on the liquidity of countries in the region, and the effect it has on the everyday life of their citizens.
Human rights infringement
Images of police brutality are emerging on social media. News platforms are reporting about mass detentions. Human Rights Watch is describing the excessive force that national security forces are using to protest violence.
Whichever reason one wishes to take closer to heart, the effects remain the same: Ecuador is in emergency status, and every day the situation is worsening. The streets of Quito are filled with people from all over the country protesting the situation, and images of violence are emerging around the web. This is an important national crisis, disrupting a country that over a decade has been working hard towards development and stability.
What can you do about it?
Just a couple of months ago, Argentina was going through a similar situation, when president Mauricio Macri was heavily defeated during the primaries after his deal with IMF to support the economy caused him to become particularly unpopular.
The UN and the Roman Catholic Church have meditated in peace talks between the different parties involved in the escalating conflict. As a result, the IMF-imposed economic changes have, for the moment, been repealed. However, as Mr. Moreno has already stated in a live broadcast “Conceding is not losing….Here we are all conceding", clearly suggesting that this is not the end of the Ecuadorian chaos.
In an attempt to avoid the chaos to engulf Ecuador in the long term, two main actions can be taken. First, it is important not to let the situation in Ecuador evolve without the world noticing. Latin American countries and their stability are often forgotten because in the global context they are not necessarily seen as a priority. However, the level of chaos and disorder in Ecuador might be just what it is needed for international actors to consider Latin American stability and the relationship with global economic support actors such as the IMF. Secondly, it is important for Ecuadorians and their supporters to keep up the momentum, and use the “win” during the mediated talks to claim the complete reinstitution of their rights and demonstrate their power. For example, this can be done by pushing for quick investigations regarding the mass incarcerations that have occurred during these days, and about the deaths that took place during the protests
Veronica Masera is a contributor to TIB.