Ecuador is returning to normal after massive protests paralyzing the country for twelve days. Calm returned to the streets of cities of Latin American country after the government revoked a popular dissatisfaction decree abolishing diesel subsidies and refused to raise public transport fares. Curfew is no longer in force in the Ecuadorian capital Quito, and the state of emergency has been lifted. What acute social conflict have Ecuadorians faced? And what a deep mark did protests and mass civil clashes leave?
On October 1, from a message from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources published on the “Twitter”, it became known that the Latin American country plans to leave the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from January 1, 2020. As the representatives of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Energy explained, this decision was caused by internal challenges that the country must resolve related to fiscal sustainability. This measure was a continuation of the line of the national government aimed at reducing government spending and increasing incomes.
It is worth returning to the history of relations between Ecuador and the OPEC. The Latin American country joined this organization in 1973. Nineteen years later, in 1992, Ecuador voluntarily suspended its membership and re-renewed it in 2007. According to official data from the September OPEC report, Ecuador’s oil production in August this year amounted to 537 thousand barrels per day. The Latin American state is among the OPEC members with the smallest production of “black gold”.
On the same day, October 1, the President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno (Spanish – Lenín Boltaire Moreno Garcés) issued a decree abolishing subsidies for diesel fuel and gasoline, after which their prices “doubled”. The abolition of subsidies has become part of a series of economic reforms agreed by the Ecuadorian leader with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for a $ 4.2 billion government loan. These subsidies cost the state budget $ 1.3 billion per year. The Latin American country was swept by large-scale demonstrations and protests, which grew into riots.
For twelve days, the acute social crisis in Ecuador, accompanied by severe clashes between protesters and the police, led to the deaths of eight people, and about 1340 people were injured. 1,192 people were arrested in connection with public unrest, according to the French newspaper “Le Figaro”. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs gives other figures. According to the Interior Ministry of Ecuador, 1,419 people were arrested during the protests. Among these are 54 foreign citizens, including residents of Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia.
Social protests disrupted the fuel supply of six of Ecuador’s 24 provinces. At the same time, insurgents, whose identities have not yet been identified, stopped production at three fields of the state-owned Corporation “Petroamazonas” in the provinces of Orellana and Sukumbios. Vandals damaged electrical networks, supporting infrastructure. Due to low loading due to reduced oil production, the Trans-Ecuadorian pipeline system (SOTE) was stopped.
On October 13, the government agreed to repeal the decree that provoked massive protests. Calm returned to the country after the conclusion of an agreement between the movement that led the protests and the country’s president Moreno. Protesters agreed to stop acts of disobedience. However, losses from stopping oil production during this period amounted to about $ 21.6 million. Oil facilities resumed their work, and oil production in Ecuador returned to its previous level, according to the country’s Ministry of Energy. According to the agency, now oil production is about 527,459 thousand barrels of oil per day. Before the October protests, production was about 545 thousand barrels per day.
It is worth noting that the fiercest clashes between the demonstrators and the police took place in the capital of the country – Quito. After the settlement of this civil conflict, thousands of rebels took to the streets to put in order a city from the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is assumed that the restoration of the center of the capital will need at least $ 500 thousand dollars.
This time in Ecuador, they found a “Russian footprint” in anti-government protests that swept the country. According to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Latin American state, Maria Paula Romo (Spanish – María Paula Romo Rodríguez), the Prosecutor General intends to find out whether the actions of the protesters were coordinated with foreign sources. At the moment, the Ecuadorian government has speculated that IP addresses from Russia were used on social networks for statements against the Ecuadorian government.
In recent years, the search for a “Russian footprint” in the internal affairs of other states has become a global trend. However, according to representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Kremlin has no real reasons for the intervention. Russia and Ecuador have always had friendly relations throughout the history of bilateral relations. This kind of interaction was under the government of Rafael Correa (Spanish – Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado), which was the forerunner of the current government. However, today Ecuador is experiencing difficulties both domestically and in its foreign policy. However, Russia has nothing to do with this, and the chances that the Ecuadorian government’s suspicions of the Kremlin’s interference will be confirmed are negligible, consider the representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
As noted by several political observers, the Ecuadorian regime is currently experiencing difficult times. First of all, this situation is due to the fact that the current government has deviated from the course that was guided by Correa. The previous leader was a supporter of “21st century socialism” and many of his reforms were aimed at solving social problems. The government of Lenin Moreno recently aggravated disagreements with the Indian communities, with the indigenous population. On the other hand, Ecuador is a country rich in “black gold”, and it reflects the state of affairs in the world oil market. And after talking about the fact that Ecuador wants to put pressure on the international system of trade by way out of the OPEC, many contradictions “came to the surface”.
Ecuadorians are still catching their breath after large-scale protests that paralyzed the Latin American country. After almost two weeks of conflict, the president canceled a controversial decree to cut government spending with the words “All is for peace in the country”. However, it’s too early to talk about political stability, because the problems that created the conflict have not yet been resolved. The state financial system still needs structural reforms. Therefore, negotiations between the parties will not be easy. In addition, some of the protesters have already regarded the concessions of the Ecuadorian president as a sign of weakness, while supporters of Correa are waiting for the opportunity to return to power. Today in Ecuador there is a relative “lull”, but the “storm” could begin again.