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#19M Protests Put Correa’s Citizen Revolution on Notice

By: Rebeca Morla - @RebecaMorla - Mar 20, 2015, 2:19 pm
Representatives of the United Workers Front (FUT) headed the March 19 "day of resistance" in Guayaquil. (PanAm Post)
Representatives of the United Workers Front (FUT) headed the March 19 “day of resistance” in Guayaquil. (PanAm Post)

Español Mirroring demonstrations across the country, hundreds gathered in the center of Guayaquil, Ecuador on Thursday to exercise their right to peaceful demonstration against the government of President Rafael Correa.

Alongside marches spearheaded nationwide by labor unions and indigenous groupings, the crowd in the center of the port city was swelled by multiple civil society organizations and ordinary citizens, who arrived at the Parque Centenario with banners, t-shirts, and whistles.

Demonstrators set off for the seat of the provincial government, leaving aside their various political affiliations, and uniting for a single purpose: to express their anger with the failings of the Citizen Revolution backed by Correa, who has been in power in the Andean country since 2007.

They were led by representatives of the United Workers Front (FUT), who originally convened the nationwide “day of resistance.” FUT member Esperanza Morán told the PanAm Post that many of the policies implemented by the government had damaged the country’s workers and left them disenchanted with Correa.

“Just as we put him in power, we can get him out at any time. He’s not an unchangeable God … and we’re not afraid of him,” she asserted.

The banners on show demonstrated that attendees marched for a variety of reasons. Besides workers’ and teachers’ unions, there were activists for the women’s rights, elderly retirees, doctors; people outraged by new import taxes, and students calling for respect for freedom of expression.

Among the demonstrators was René Rodríguez, who professed no connection with any of the organizations present. Instead, he was there as simply “one of the many of Ecuadorians who have been disappointed by this government.”

“We expected a real change in Ecuador, but unfortunately, the Ecuadorian people — myself included — have been very disappointed by the regime.”

On the other side of the street, a group of women wore t-shirts that read “enough is enough.” Mónica Jimenez explained that they were a group of housewives protesting against a president whose policies “have harmed all the people.”

“He is not taking the measures he should, such as reducing government spending. For example, with these sabatinas which we know are worth millions of dollars,” she said, in reference to Correa’s weekly televised appearance on Saturday morning.

Around 6 p.m. the rain began, but the march continued undeterred. In a string of chants, the crowd shouted that the “streets belong to the people” and that they would “beat Correa in this fight.” In other refrains, marchers said they were “tired” with Correa’s government, and rejected likely accusations that they had been “paid” to attend.

Protester Jonathan Jaramillo said that he was angry with Correa’s mismanagement of Ecuadorians’ money, and his administration’s repeated attacks on individual liberties.

“I’m here because I want to live in a country where I can decide what to buy and what not to, what I can and what I cannot do. I believe in freedom,” he added.

Some political figures were also present at the demonstration. Opposition legislator Henry Cucalón told the PanAm Post he’d come out to demonstrate against the poor decisions taken by the government, and in defense of the right to protest.

“It’s legitimate to be in the streets expressing our nonconformity,” he said.

Over 80 police officers prevented the passage of the demonstrators in Guayaquil. Subsequently, the march dispersed. (PanAm Post)
Over 80 police officers blocked the protesters’ passage in Guayaquil. (PanAm Post)

However, when the demonstration reached the Malecón 2000 boardwalk, a cordon of over 80 police officers blocked the way to the nearby seat of the provincial authority, where Governor Rolando Panchana had organized an event with musical groups for dozens of Correa’s supporters.

As the protesters demanded their right to move freely, several police mounted motorcycles and revved the engines, threatening to drive into the crowd. As a result, many demonstrators dispersed and only a small amount reached the end point of the protest.

Correa Hits Back

Demonstrations in other cities also saw a significant turnout. The biggest one, however, took place in Quito, where more than seven blocks of the city were occupied by protesters.

It started at 4 p.m local time and lasted for three and a half hours, ending in clashes between protesters and police in the historic Plaza San Francisco.

On the other hand, President Rafael Correa, who was in the city of Riobamba, branded the mobilizations a “total failure,” and claimed that a group of protesters had tried to attack him with bottles and stones.

Correa also alleged that his government, like progressive regimes in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, was the target of conspiracies by the mass media and other economic interest groups.

Edited by Laurie Blair.

Rebeca Morla Rebeca Morla

Based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Rebeca Morla works as an editorial assistant with the PanAm Post. She is a political scientist and an Executive Board member of EsLibertad. Follow @RebecaMorla.