Ecuador Internacional

Protests by 1,000s of Ecuadorians meet with brutal repression

The Guardian 20/08/2015

Photo: The Guardian

Photo: The Guardian

Would you believe me if I told you that while president Rafael Correa was singing “Hasta siempre, comandante” with a band in the main square in central Quito last Thursday night just one block away riot police were tear-gassing and clubbing Ecuadorian citizens? Or that elsewhere in Ecuador the police have been reported to be specifically targeting female protestors’ “intimate parts”?

Ecuador is currently in turmoil. Thousands of people are protesting proposed constitutional amendments, the expansion of the oil frontier, mining projects, changes to water and education policy, labour laws and pensions, a proposed “Free Trade Agreement” (FTA) with the European Union (EU), and increasing repression of freedom of speech, among other things. The government’s response? To send the police and military with batons and tear-gas to beat citizens, make arbitrary arrests, raid homes and even – some people believe – to take advantage of volcanic eruptions by declaring a nationwide “State of Exception”.

The protests have taken different forms. Indigenous people marched for 10 days from the Zamora Chinchipe province in the Amazon to Quito, 1,000s and 1,000s of people gathered in the capital last week, and another march involving approximately 2,000 people was held there on Monday. In addition, a series of demonstrations and road-blocks have sprung up elsewhere in the country.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Patricia Gualinga, a Kichwa leader from the Amazon, told the Guardian, talking about the violence that broke out in Quito’s narrow streets last week. “Total brutality. They were using motor-bikes, horses and tear-gas bombs. You can’t imagine what it’s like if you didn’t see it.”

This week, on Monday 17 August, there was serious violence in Saraguro in Loja province in southern Ecuador, which Luis Maca, a Kichwa Saraguro indigenous man, describes as “practically a battle”. He told the Guardian approximately 1,500 policemen and military descended on his village and were raiding houses and arresting and beating people. According to Maca, this was in response to a peaceful blockade of the Pan-American Highway, which runs north to Quito, which had been in place since 6 am.

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