More protests expected across Ecuador as austerity measures bite

Unions, students and leaders of indigenous groups across Ecuador have called for nationwide strikes today to oppose controversial austerity measures.

ecuador austerity protests

Photo: Santiago Arcos/Reuters

Unions, students and leaders of indigenous groups across Ecuador have called for nationwide strikes today to oppose controversial austerity measures.

Ecuador is struggling to confront its large foreign debt and fiscal deficit, which have been brought on by decades of fuel subsidies that, per the government, have cost $1.3 billion.

In an effort to stabilise the economy, Quito agreed to a three-year, $4.2 billion loan deal with the IMF in March to fund the government’s fiscal management goals for three years. However, the loan is contingent on cuts to public spending; the government plans to end fuel subsidies, reduce the size of the public workforce and privatise state-run organisations.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Quito last week to oppose the measures, sparking sporadic violence and resulting in more than 300 arrests. In response, President Lenin Moreno declared a two-month state of emergency and temporarily moved the capital to the coastal city of Guayaquil.

The president’s approval ratings have sunk to below 30%—down from more than 70% when he was elected in 2017. The protests could ultimately result in Moreno’s resignation, which would signal that Ecuador is not politically ready to abandon decades of left-wing economic management to address the fiscal problems that the IMF loan sought to alleviate.

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