EspañolOn Friday, June 12, thousands of Ecuadorians finished off a week of street protests. New taxes on inheritances and “surplus profit” of real-estate transactions promoted by President Rafael Correa appear to have been the last straw. These measures have generated such social unrest among the public that thousands have taken to the streets for five consecutive days.
A march called by the opposition via social media took place in Guayaquil at the Plaza Centenario at 5:00 p.m. local time. Ecuadorian authorities announced an amendment to the inheritance tax just before the protest, but it was not enough to calm the public’s anger. Gradually, several groups of people, mostly dressed in black, arrived at the site with banners, flags, and whistles.
I attended the opposition march on Friday to not only demonstrate my own rejection of Correa’s policies but also discover why so many Ecuadorians have come out to protest. Activists held up posters expressing the repudiation of taxes, wasteful government spending, and the “vulture state.”
“I am against the tyranny and oppression of this government. We chose Correa to govern this country; we do not want a satrap, but the thinking man we thought he was. The country is screwed, because of the economic policies of this wretch,” a protester who declined to give his name told me.
For the constitutional expert Roberto López, who attended the protest, the citizenry is “finally demonstrating against the abuses of this tyrannical and dictatorial government.”
At the top of Correa’s list of abuses, he says, is the violation of freedom of speech. “The government believes in the state’s right to communication, rather than in freedom of speech and press.… Taxes on inheritances and surplus profits are confiscatory laws. Those are not taxes; it is stealing from what you have earned, or what you inherited from the work of your ancestors. That is unacceptable in a democratic society,” López says.
The Resistencia Ecuador representative added that “the purpose of the protest is to show the rejection of an endless chain of violations perpetrated by Correa’s regime.”
— #ResistenciaEC (@ResistenciaEC1) June 13, 2015
“This was the “cacerolazo” of Guayaquil against the dictatorship, yesterday.”
“It is clear that the sum of nine years of abuses, corruption, and impunity have exhausted the patience of constituents, who seeing that there is no division of powers, and therefore no authority to control the president’s abuses, have chosen to exercise their constitutional right of resistance.”
Several political figures also participated in the demonstration. “I want to say that eliminating one Article from the Law on Inheritances does not solve the abuse of power,” opposition legislator Andrés Páez told the media during the event. “We are going continue the protests and fight, because we want respect for Ecuadorians.”
“We want those laws repealed; we want [the government] to return the money taken from Social Security; to end the limits on workers’ earnings; to give teachers back their funds; and to imprison Pedro Delgado, President Correa’s cousin,” he added.
Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, one of the principal organizers of the event, gave a speech at the end of the protest in which he said it was time for the Correa administration to “respect the work of the Ecuadorian families. Our work is for our children.”
“Starting the demonstration! Let’s say no to the Vulture State.”
I asked several ordinary citizens why they chose to gather at the demonstration and found a common response: “We’re tired of so much abuse.” On the street, hundreds of people, of all ages and social class, vigorously shouted phrases like “Down with the dictator,” and “The people are tired.”
Although some protesters were upset with politicians for using the rally for their own campaigns, the march still managed to show several positive signs that are worth noting.
First, it shows that people are tried and disappointed with a government of “clean hands and warm hearts.” The people are no longer willing to accept a new tax every week, or a government that sticks its nose into everything and does whatever the president orders, without respect for the rule of law.
Second, the taxes on inheritances and surplus profits were not the sole causes of the protests, but rather just two of several reasons that have led Ecuadorian citizens to tell President Correa that enough is enough.
Third, PAIS Alliance supporters are no longer “more, many more” than the opposition. The number of people who stand against this government is increasing, and as organizers have already announced, the protests will continue.
Fourth, we have reached a crucial point of political and economic breakdown in Ecuador, and the opposition, while still very fragmented, should take full advantage.
Given that the constitutional amendment to allow indefinite reelection is likely to be adopted, the only one who benefits from a fragmented opposition that lacks leadership heading into 2017’s elections is Correa.
While the president’s popularity has waned, he remains a strong leader and will likely win the next election, unless someone can manage to take him into a runoff.
Thousands of Ecuadorians have already woken up from that flex-green dream called the “Citizens’ Revolution,” and for them, there is no turning back. As he looks ahead to 2017, it’s time for President Correa to switch up the traditional rhetoric of 21st-century socialists that there is a “conspiracy of destabilization” at work against him.
In the meantime, Ecuadorian citizens can only continue to exercise their right to civil resistance, and peacefully demonstrate against the abuses of Correa’s government. Freedom does not defend itself. Hopefully, this lesson has taught that we should not wait until that “last straw” to raise our voices against a clearly authoritarian state.