EspañolThursday, June 25, 2015 will go down in Ecuador’s history, with one of the largest public protests ever recorded in the city of Guayaquil.
Starting at 2 p.m. local time, the mayor’s office estimates that around 400,000 people — one in five city residents — filled Nueve de Octubre Avenue and its surroundings, to reject the latest measures taken by the government of President Rafael Correa. That makes three consecutive weeks of widespread demonstrations from Ecuadorians against the socialist government.
The protest, convened on June 12 by the mayor of the port city, Jaime Nebot Saadi, brought together citizens of all ages and social classes under the slogan “#GuayaquilProtesta” (Guayaquil protests). Likewise, several groups from other counties along the Ecuadorian coast, such as Vinces, El Empalme, and Samborondón, came to the city to join the crowd, mostly dressed in light blue and white, the colors of Guayaquil’s flag.
At around 5:00 p.m., after struggling to walk through the crowds of supporters, Nebot took the stage on the Malecon 2000 boardwalk, where he spoke to the audience for 45 minutes. “One must live these things to tell the tale. This peaceful but rebellious and strong crowd is Guayaquil, which now represents the Ecuadorian nation,” he opened.
Nebot had previously stated that this was not a protest against Correa, but against the “totalitarian system” that the president “seeks to impose.” However, the crowd repeatedly chanted “fuera Correa, fuera” (get out Correa, get out), as has been heard in all the demonstrations recently held in the country.
Meanwhile, authorities from the Ecuadorian government asserted that they would not call their supporters onto the streets on Thursday, because they “would never put their members at risk.” However, the public institutions located along Nueve de Octubre Avenue appeared to have been specially decorated for the occasion.
A poster with the image of Pope Francis — who shall soon visit the South American nation — hung from Ecuador’s Central Bank office building, with one of his quotes against the accumulation of wealth. Moreover, there were loudspeakers that proclaimed messages in favor of the government from the top of the building, with conspicuously higher volume during Nebot’s speech.
Furthermore, the Bank of the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (BIESS) had a government banner on its facade, which accused Nebot of not providing basic services to the poorest areas of the city. Given this, the mayor said that “despite all the efforts that Correísmo [had] made to prevent people coming out to protest, none of them [had] worked.”
“This man [Correa] is not democratic. Democrats do not do that sort of thing … they are employees of the people, not owners of the people, as this man believes,” the mayor added.
“He thinks he can treat the people like fools. … His credibility is plummeting, faster and more lethally than the Germanwings plane. However, he will not kill the Ecuadorians with him, he will crash alone,” Nebot continued, amid cheers and applause from protesters.
Minutes later, the Guayaquil mayor transformed the street into a sort of popular assembly, asking the audience a series of questions about the measures that the government seeks to implement, regarding inheritance and capital gains.
“They say the profits on legitimately acquired property are illegitimate, that these belong to the state. They say that inheritance is illegitimate, unless they are the heirs; in that case everything is legitimate … we are never going to accept that country, because that is not Ecuador; that is Venezuela, where this man [Correa] says the government has reduced poverty.”
“Do you want Ecuador to be like Venezuela? Do you want the country that Correa proposes? Do you want the Inheritance Law? Do you want the tax on capital gains?” he asked to the crowd. The audience replied with a deafening “No” to each of these questions.
Later on, Nebot branded the government’s economic policy as a “sad reality” that is created in the “laboratory of failed projects called for by Senplades (National Secretariat of Planning and Development),” whose leaders “want to win the Nobel prize in Chemistry, by transforming a country with a future into manure.” He further warned the audience that Correísmo seeks to compromise dollarization, and that we must put an end to this model of government, “but at the polls, democratically.”
Finally, Mayor Nebot stated that Correa’s government has sought to create division among Ecuadorians, but that the people are putting a halt to it, because we want a “free, fair, supportive, and united” Ecuador. “We are here to tell this man to go to hell with his divisive proposal; Correa’s country is over.”
People in other cities also joined the demonstration against the government on Thursday. In Quito, citizens gathered along Shyris Avenue in the afternoon, where Mayor Mauricio Rodas spoke out against the new taxes the president has been promoting.