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Ecuador Protests Drive Government Out of Capital

by Eben Diskin Oct 8, 2019

Protests across Ecuador are continuing for the sixth day in a row, and they show no signs of slowing down. Started in response to President Lenin Moreno’s abolition of fuel subsidies, which resulted in the sharp rise in consumer prices, the protests have become so dangerous that President Lenin Moreno has moved his government from the capital of Quito to the city of Guayaquil. Indeed, images have shown protesters vandalizing public buildings, throwing gasoline bombs, and looting.

The situation in Quito has turned dire, with rioters forcing their way into the comptroller general’s office, vandalizing the assembly building, burning military vehicles, and destroying farms. Indigenous groups have spearheaded leadership of the protests, using burning tires, branches, and rocks to barricade roads, with some even throwing stones at security forces, which have responded with tear gas. While the barricades certainly drew attention, they have already resulted in the death of one man in the Azuay province, as roadblocks prevented an ambulance from reaching him in time.

In a televised address on Monday, Moreno characterized the protests not as “not a protest of social dissatisfaction faced with a government decision but the looting, vandalism and violence show there is an organised political motive to destabilise the government.”

Protestors are largely angry over food prices, which have increased by up to a third. Authorities have even started arresting shopkeepers for raising the price of food, but that doesn’t seem to be helping the issue.

According to Moreno, fuel subsidies were distorting the economy and costing $60 billion, making their abolition necessary. The government expects to save $1.5 billion a year from ending fuel subsidies, though the protests don’t appear to be ending anytime soon. Transportation groups in some areas of the country have even called for a national strike on Wednesday.

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