On Wednesday, at least 5,000 people took to the streets to protest a series of sweeping reforms promoted by the Ecuadorian government. Among the key drivers were new labor laws and a constitutional amendment that would authorize indefinite reelection for the nation’s president.
The most tense moment occurred at Montúfar School, in the south of the capital, Quito, where about 500 people clashed with police forces. At just that one location, Ecuadorian authorities arrested approximately 74 people.
Minister of Education Augusto Espinosa has denied that the arrested were students of that school and has condemned those who “infiltrated” the protests.
“Despite the attempts made by the [hardline Marxist] People’s Democratic Movement, inciting and involving students in these protests and generating violence, the students stayed away. Scenes of people infiltrating and wearing hoods were seen. They have nothing to do with the schools or the students,” he said.
Lastimosamente identificados infiltrados en alrededores del Montufar, detectada persona armada, no se puede caer en provocaciones violentas
— José Serrano Salgado (@ppsesa) September 17, 2014
Neighbors of the area accused police officers of abuse of power and attacking people not associated with the protests. In declarations compiled by Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, local woman Rosario Amagua affirmed that the police attacked her nephew while he was selling candies: “They took away the box, the money, and they dragged him beaten up. He is not a student; he sells with me by the milk processor.”
While one of the goals of the protest was to appear before government officials, not a single one greeted the indigenous and union leaders. Omar Simon, general secretary of the presidency, simply dismissed them.
“Some of their proposals are openly false,” he said, “which undermines the purported seriousness of their self-appointed social leaders, like the malicious and reckless request to stop repression… This is the reason why neither the president nor any other government officer will address them — at least, not until we observe a responsible attitude, consistent with the historic process that this country is experiencing.”
Indigenous leader Carlos Pérez Guartambel, president of the Ecuarunari coalition, was unfazed. In particular, he warned against the constitutional reform to allow indefinite reelection: “Don’t play with fire; the people are waking up. If we don’t want indefinite reelection, we will insist on a referendum.”
Source: Diario de Yucatán.