Ecuador woke up this Thursday with a total stoppage of activities as a result of a nationwide strike announced by transport workers and taxi drivers to protest against the "Paquetazo", a package of austerity policies which President Lenin Moreno announced Tuesday in order to comply with suggestions presented by the International Monetary Fund (IMF9 in return for billions of dollars in loans.
Ecuador: Public Transport Drivers Announce Nationwide Strike Over Gas Price Increase
"Finally the government took off its mask and raised the neoliberal project ordered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which places the full weight of the crisis on the people," the Workers' Unitary Front president Mesias Tatamuez said.
On Thuesday Moreno, who won the 2017 elections with the support of social movements and leftist organizations, signed a decree to eliminate fuel subsidies and index their prices at international prices.
This decision would see diesel gallon price increasing from US$1 to US$2.2 and the gasoline gallon price will rise from US$1.8 to US$2.3.
Private transport organizations announced later that they would begin a stoppage of buses, taxis and heavy transport throughout the country.
Workers, Campesinos, professors and students also expressed their rejection of the reforms which would require employees of public companies to give a payday to the Finance Ministry.
Simultaneously, however, the IMF recommendations included reducing the income tax to banana producers, who are among the richest economic agents in Ecuador.
On Wednesday night, Ecuadoreans marched through the main avenue of Quito, the capital of the country, towards the presidential palace. The police could not stop them.
Thousands of people arrived in the Plaza Grande, where the seat of government is located, and remained there shouting slogans against President Moreno.
In response to the announced transport workers, the government decreed that school classes would be suspended Thursday.
Moreno's economic measures do not seem to fully please right-wing politicians, either. Among them is the mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri, who said the fuel subsidy should not have been eliminated.
Regarding recent events in Ecuador, former President Rafael Correa, who hold a PhD in economics, commented on social media that the latest austerity measures are a demonstration of "pure ineptitude," for there was no external pressure to justify them.
He also indicated that the Ecuadorean public external debt increased by US$15 billion over the last two years, which has not really yielded any benefit on the average Ecuadorean, according to him.
“Debt was used to finance public infrastructure investments. Now, it goes to consumption," Correa said, recalling that the Ecuadorean debt average interest increased from 4.31 percent to 5.9 percent.
Before Lenin Moreno took office, "the country had to pay loans for US$32 billion in a 10-year term; now it will have to pay US$56 billion in the next 10 years," he warned.
Even right-wing economists acknowledged, Ecuador is most likely to experience a greater economic slowdown in the coming months.
On Thursday local media reported that Army special forces were deployed inside the Presidential palace. No official comments were given about such a decision. The government has so far maintained that there would be no change or reverse in the measured announced earlier this week.