13 June 2015 - 01:58 PM
6 Key Points About the Opposition Protests in Ecuador
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1. This is a Rebellion of the Wealthy

Government supporters and opposition demonstrators are separated by a line of police on a major road in Quito, Ecuador, June 10, 2015.

The Citizens’ Revolution commands broad support from a cross-section of Ecuadorean society, including support from the middle-classes, however there is great resentment from the wealthy upper classes who begrudge the fact that, after previously ruling the country for so long, they no longer wield the same political power. This is despite the fact that Ecuador is one of the best performing economies in the region,

The Wealth Redistribution Law, which prompted this latest round of protests is a measure specifically designed to target the wealthiest in the country, affecting a mere 2 percent of the population. The law provides a progressive taxation schedule, meaning those inheriting more will pay more. Only three out of every 100,000 Ecuadoreans will ever receive an inheritance greater than US$50,000.

Those calling on people to protest are looking to protect their own interests. Unlike other opposition demonstrations in Ecuador, the class character is clear. Those protesting are among the wealthiest in the country who want to keep their economic power and perpetuate the inter-generational transfer of wealth. In Ecuador 2 percent of the population controls 90 percent of big business, giving them a disproportionate amount of wealth and influence.

2. Violent Marches are Part of a Broader Right-wing Strategy in the Region

Revolutionary and left-leaning governments have won resounding electoral victories throughout Latin America, bringing with them an end to the neoliberal era, where governments did the bidding of the United States. These governments have invested massively in social programs, infrastructure, health care and education, raising the living standards of millions, while reducing inequality and poverty.

The conservative opposition knows that these governments, like the Correa government in Ecuador, have the support of the majority of the population, and their only recourse is to destabilize the government in order to prompt foreign intervention or a coup d'état.

President Correa has previously warned that coups are still a real threat in the region, with opposition figures through Latin America openly calling for a military intervention against democratically-elected governments.

These latest protests have seen flashes of violence, several government supporters have been injured, including the former Minister of Culture Paco Velasco, who was pelted with a bottle.

Violence is being employed in order to provoke a response from security officials in order to accuse the government of having violated civil rights. This is the same strategy used in Venezuela in early 2014, where opposition barricades led to the death of 43 people, mostly government supporters. Those violent right-wing barricades were used to justify U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, that called the country a threat to national security of the United States – a position that has been universally rejected by governments in Latin America.

3. Demonstrations are Being Promoted by the Private Corporate Press

The same tiny minority being targeted by these new inheritance taxes are those who own the private media outlets in the country who have been promoting the protests. The private media in Ecuador has also deliberately misrepresented the proposed inheritance tax, saying that it will negatively impact working class families and destroy family-owned businesses.

Several outlets have also invited so-called analysts who claim that the law harms low-income and working class people without providing any proof whatsoever. The highest tax rate of 47.5 percent, charged on inheritances above US$566,400, is inline with those charged throughout the world, and lower than those charged in countries such as Japan.

Apart from only affecting two percent of the population, the law provides for important exemptions and deductions. For example, if the inheritance involves the transfer of a home, the nontaxable amount doubles from US$35,400 to US$70,800. The law also allows the inheritance tax to be paid via stock to workers of a company, democratizing the means of production and the state does not receive any money in these cases.

4. The Opposition has Previously Tried to Oust Correa by Force

President Correa has warned that these demonstrations are only tangentially about the inheritance tax, instead it is an effort to destabilize and oust a democratically-elected government. The opposition has tried this tactic before.

On September 30, 2010, a police strike ended in a violent revolt against President Correa, who was held hostage in a hospital for several hours. The opposition tried to pin the blame on Correa, saying he was responsible for the events.

The Office of the Public Prosecutor determined that the events of September 30 were in fact a pre-planned event, a plot to oust the government. This fact is not lost on supporters of the government. Members of the September 30 Never Again collective, the group formed after the attempted coup against Correa in September 30, 2010, has been active in the counter marches held by supporters of the government.

5. Ecuador's Constitution Demands Wealth Redistribution

One of the first major reforms undertaken by President Correa during his first term was the writing of a new constitution. Praised as one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, since it's approval in 2008, the government has been steadily working to bring the country's laws in line with what the constitution requires of them.

The redistributive nature of the inheritance tax is based on article three of the Ecuadorean constitution, which reads, “The primary duties of the state are planning national development and eradicating poverty, promoting sustainable development and equitable distribution of resources and wealth in order to bring about Good Living."

Despite significant drops in poverty and extreme poverty, inequality is still a pressing problem in Ecuador. In terms of inequality, Ecuador sits at 132 out of 160 countries. The tax on inheritances is expected to significantly impact inequality in the country by redistributing wealth through social programs and investments.

6. The Opposition is Afraid of Losing Elections in 2017

President Correa was re-elected as president in 2013 with an overwhelming 57 percent of the vote, beating his nearest rival by over 30 points or nearly 3 million votes.

Should Correa run again as the candidate of the Citizen's Revolution, he is widely expected to win. This is why the opposition has been working to prevent his candidacy in the elections.

The Constitutional Court of Ecuador, the highest judicial body in the country regarding matters involving the constitution, affirmed that the National Assembly may make changes to the constitution without the need for a referendum, including a change that would allow the Ecuadorean people to indefinitely re-elect the president through popular vote.

Guillermo Lasso, the same politician who was trounced in the last elections, led a delegation of opposition politicians to the offices of the Organization of American States to request that they freeze efforts by the National Assembly to make changes to the constitution, calling for the U.S.-dominated body to interfere in the democratic process of the country.

Because the opposition knows it likely cannot win at the ballot box, they are seeking to oust the democratically-elected government by other means. Opposition protestors openly call for his ouster during their demonstrations, falsely accusing Correa of being a “dictator.”

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