President Moreno agrees to continue the popular 40-year-old subsidy program
By Mo Juenger | Staff Writer
Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno agreed to continue the country’s 40-year-old fuel subsidy program after protests against its cancellation grew violent in the past few weeks.
After the program’s original discontinuation, Moreno declared a national state of emergency on Oct. 3. The short-lived termination of the fuel subsidies caused oil price hikes and spurred mass protests.
The cancellation of this program culminated in a 120% rise in fuel prices, and protesters believed the price hike disproportionally affected the country’s farmers and lower class.
The fuel subsidy cuts were announced with a $4.2 million plan to secure loans with the International Monetary Fund. Moreno stated that this plan was intended to increase jobs and strengthen the national economy, but opponents argued that additional debt would be harmful to Ecuador’s economy.
Civilian response to the cuts was unprecedented, with at least five documented fatalities among protesters.
The protests were marked by violence. Ecuadorian protesters, some of them indigenous, took eight police officers hostage on Oct. 3 and released them unharmed later that day. Protesters also detained 27 journalists who were injured. Police used tear gas on civilians throughout the weeks of protests.
Two news stations in the capital city of Quito were vandalized, and a government building housing the comptroller general’s office was firebombed last Saturday. In conjunction with this attack, 30 protestors were arrested.
President Moreno left his post in Quito and has been governing the country from the coastal city of Guayaquil. He has not yet stated a date for his return.
“These incidents of vandalism and violence demonstrate there is some organized political intention to destabilize the government and break constitutional law, break democratic order,” Moreno said.
The Red Cross shut down all ambulance and paramedic services to the area due to concern with safety for the of its volunteers. The organization reported that volunteers had been attacked in several locations and there was an instance of vandalism against an ambulance.
Public transportation was largely halted, with officials stating that bus routes were being shut down by protesters, and many transportation workers had begun to strike.
Indigenous peoples blocked off access to the country’s main oil pipeline, which runs from the Amazon region to the Balao port.
Tensions have been high between the Ecuadoran government and indigenous groups for years, especially regarding the placement of oil pipelines on indigenous land in the Amazon.
Junior graphic design and illustration major James Reyes-Gomez expressed his support for the indigenous groups.
“They’re right, they should be protesting. They have the rights to the land that the fuel is coming from,” Reyes-Gomez said.
Moreno revoked an earlier deal last Sunday night after talks with indigenous leaders.