Ecuador: general strike, indigenous march on Quito

After walking cross-country for 10 days,  an indigenous "March for Life and Dignity" arrived in Quito Aug. 13, just as a general strike was launched to press Ecuador's President Rafael Correa on a list of demands related to economic, social and environmental issues. The marchers established a camp in Quito's  Arbolito Park, where they pledge to remain until Correa agrees to their demands. As on such occasions in the past, the marchers were confronted by a pro-Correa rally, sparking a fracas. Correa supporters chanted "fuera golpistas, fuera" (out, coup-momgers, out), while the indigenous protesters countered with "fuera Correa, fuera." Under the work stoppage, public transport was halted in Quito and major thoroughfares were blocked in Guayaquil, Cuenca and other provincial capitals.

The action was jointly called by the indigenous coalition CONAIE and opposition Unified Labor Front (FUT). A CONAIE statement said that Correa's plan to change the constitution to permit his indefinite re-election is "against democracy, pluri-nationality and the rights of workers." FUT leader Mesías Tatamuez denied Correa's charges that the strikers are "playing the game of the right," counter-charging that the government "which calls itself revolutionary" is serving the interests of foreign capital "even while there is still poverty" in Ecuador.

Demands of the protest movement include: scrapping the constitutional changes; dropping the planned Free Trade Agreement with the European Union; dropping several government decrees considered "anti-worker"; dropping a planned revision of the land code that favors private owners; repeal of the new Water Law; overturn of Decree 16, which restricts NGO activities; free university education for all; establishment of "bilingual and intercultural" education in indigenous languages; a halt to all extractive activities in the Yasuní and Cordillera del Cóndor protected areas; a moratorium on new mining concessions nationwide; and release of activists imprisoned in protests related to these issues. (InfoBae, AP, Aug. 13; EcuavisaLa República, Quito, Aug. 12)

The Water Law, allowing what opponents call a free hand to extractive industries, was defeated following a protest campaign in 2010 but revived and passed last July in what was decried as a "fast track" parliamentary maneuver when Ecuadorans were distracted by the World Cup games. The passage sparked further protests, including a new cross-country march on Quito. (UDW, July 23; Al Jazeera, July 16, 2014)