LatinNews Daily - 21 June 2022

ECUADOR: Lasso expands state of exception as protests intensify

On 20 June Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso expanded a state of exception declared in response to intensifying anti-government protests.

Analysis:

The protests, organised by Ecuador’s umbrella indigenous organisation Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (Conaie), are now in their eighth day and appear to be growing in strength. Conaie is calling on Lasso to row back his government’s economic agenda, with its long list of demands including increased subsidies, reduced fuel prices, and a moratorium on new oil and mining projects. The government has repeatedly expressed willingness to enter negotiations with Conaie, but the indigenous organisation continues to reject any form of compromise.

  • The escalating protests prompted President Lasso to decree a state of exception in the provinces of Pichincha, Cotopaxi, and Imbabura on 17 June. Yesterday, that decree was withdrawn and another issued which saw the state of exception expanded to also include the provinces of Chimborazo, Tungurahua, and Pastaza. In these provinces, the right to freedom of association in public places has been restricted, although a presidential statement insisted that the right to peaceful protest would be respected. The same statement added that the emergency decree was needed “to protect the wellbeing of citizens faced with violence.”
  • Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo yesterday reaffirmed the government’s offer of negotiations, urging Conaie to “put dialogue first, not confrontation.” However, Conaie has opted for a maximum pressure strategy. It has so far rejected all offers of dialogue and continues to warn that the protests are “indefinite”.
  • Protests have intensified in recent days, with the epicentre of the unrest shifting from Cotopaxi province to the capital, Quito. Yesterday, thousands of peasant farmers entered Quito, with significant numbers pushing through police barricades to access the central district.
  • On 19 June, the first death of a protester was reported, with police saying that the 22-year-old man died after falling into a river in northern Quito. Wilson Pavón, the capital’s police commander, said yesterday that the death “had nothing to do with police activities that were being carried out in the area.” However, a collective of Ecuadorean human rights organisations, Alianza de Organizaciones por los Derechos Humanos, claims that the man fell into the river while fleeing from tear gas fired by the police.
  • Lasso yesterday said that the protesters “are seeking chaos and want to remove the president from power; I’m still here, I’m not going to flee.” He framed the protests as “a great battle” between “democracy and chaos”.
  • Protesters have targeted oil facilities in response to Conaie’s demands for an end to the expansion of the Ecuadorean oil sector. The deputy minister for oil and natural gas extraction, Ramón Correa, said yesterday that the protests had prevented 78,000 barrels of oil from being produced during the first week of the unrest. Correa said that this figure would rise significantly as of today (21 June), due to yesterday’s decision by Argentina’s Pluspetrol to suspend operations at all of its facilities in the Amazonian province of Orellana. “The trends are worrying,” Correa said. “Yesterday 62 wells were paralysed and today it’s 237.”

Looking Ahead: There is a high chance of Lasso’s state of exception being overturned by the national assembly. A motion to repeal the first state of exception was submitted shortly before Lasso replaced it with the second emergency decree, voiding the legislative motion. However, opposition parties, led by the left-wing Unión por la Esperanza (Unes) coalition, have said that they have enough votes to repeal the latest state of exception. 

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