Ecuador’s government and its largest Indigenous rights organization, The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE), signed an agreement on Thursday 30 June 2022, to end 18 days of mass protests in the country. It promises a 15 cent USD reduction to diesel and petrol prices. Additionally, this deal also places limits on the expansion of oil exploration areas and prohibits mining activities in protected areas, national parks, and water sources. While the reduction in fuel prices in the agreement is approximately half of the amount demanded by protesters, it will cost Ecuador $340 million USD annually. Ecuador’s government has 90 days to deliver solutions to these negotiated demands by Indigenous groups. This deal was signed by Ecuador’s Minister of Government, Francisco Jimenez, Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza, and Monsignor Luis Cabrera, head of the Episcopal Conference and mediator of the deal.
Cabrera stated, “Social peace will only be able to be achieved, hopefully soon, through dialogue with particular attention paid to marginalized communities, but always respecting everyone’s rights.” On Twitter, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said, “We have achieved the supreme value to which we all aspire: peace in our country.”
CONAIE launched a national strike on 13 June 2022, with demands including decreased fuel prices, health and education budget increases, and price controls on some goods. Approximately 14,000 Ecuadorians, primarily Indigenous, participated. Demonstrators blocked roads during these protests, including in major cities, such as Quito, Ecuador’s capital. These blockades hindered the transportation of fuel, food, and even ambulatory services. Educator’s energy ministry estimated that production of fuel, the country’s most valuable export, fell by half. Food prices increased dramatically during this period. The protests turned violent, with clashes between security forces and demonstrators. Authorities have linked four deaths, one military officer and three protesters, to the violence during the protests. The death of the officer and the wounding of 12 others, during an attack by protesters on a fuel convoy, led to delays in the reaching of an agreement, despite the process having begun on Monday 27 June 2022.
Ecuador is an oil producing country, but citizens have struggled with unemployment and poverty, which has been worsened by a dramatic increase in fuel prices since 2020. A financing deal worth $6.5 billion USD between the Ecuadorian government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is due to end later in 2022.
The announcement of an agreement to end mass protests in the country is a welcome development. It is important for Ecuador’s government to be responsive to its citizens and work in a cooperative manner to alleviate the quality of life issues many Ecuadorians face. The problems are complex and multifaceted, but it is clear that stronger solutions and an active state are vital to ensuring that frustrations do not compound and lead to events such as these demonstrations across the country. A strong economic recovery that works for citizens is needed.
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