Ecuador Internacional

Papal truce over, Ecuador protesters return to streets

Reuters - Girish Gupta 10/07/2015

Hundreds of anti-government protesters in Ecuador ended a moratorium during Pope Francis' visit on Thursday and returned to the streets in a rally against recent tax hikes and alleged corruption and autocracy.

Several hundred thousand Ecuadoreans have participated in demonstrations in the past month, mainly in the highland capital Quito and coastal city of Guayaquil, against socialist President Rafael Correa, who accuses them of plotting a coup.

Protesters banged drums, waved flags and chanted "Correa Out" at the headquarters of Correa's political party in a wealthy district of Quito on Thursday evening.

"The government has manipulated democracy, used its power to pursue its enemies and engaged in corruption," said Jorge Penafiel, a 31-year-old lawyer.

Protesters took a break during Francis' four-day visit this week as a show of respect to the pontiff.

Their main targets are increases in capital gains and inheritance taxes, which the government says will only impact the richest sector of the population. Others include Correa's treatment of opponents.

Correa, a 52-year-old economist who came to power in 2007, has been popular among the poor because of welfare policies, paid for from oil revenues, and for bringing stability.

His foes accuse him of being another Latin American "caudillo", or strongman.

He has called the protesters "cowards" representing a wealthy oligarchy - similar to accusations made by his fellow leftist ally, President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.

"This is Ecuador, not Venezuela," read one banner at the rally.

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