from Weekly News Update on the Americas

In a Jan. 11 communique from “the sovereign mountains” of Ecuador, the Ecuadoran Guerrilla Coordination (CGE) announced that as of Jan. 1, 2006, the 1991 peace agreement signed between the “Alfaro Vive Carajo!” rebel group and the Ecuadoran government was being revoked. The country’s rebel forces currently have 5,000 weapons, says the communique, and the support of about 20,000 Ecuadoran soldiers and military officers “in active and passive service.”

“At present we are not carrying out armed actions,” says the CGE, in the hopes that the government will address popular demands and avoid “that we begin an internal conflict, of unpredictable consequences, as happened in the case of Central America or Colombia.” The rebel coalition lists four demands: no Free Trade Treaty (TLC), and full economic sovereignty; prison for corrupt officials; doubling of the national monthly salary to $300; and respect for the people of Ecuador and their [popular] organizations. The groups that signed the document, under the umbrella of the CGE are “Alfaro Vive Revolucionario,” “Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias,” “EPA Ejercito Rebelde” and “ELA Ejercito Libertador Liberando a Todo el Ecuador!!” (Communique, Jan. 11 via Resumen Latinoamericano, Jan. 20)


On Jan. 12 some 3,000 Ecuadoran high school and university students protested in front of the Carondelet government palace in Quito to demand that Ecuador withdraw from negotiations over a Free Trade Treaty (TLC) with Peru, Colombia and the US (known in English as the Andean Free Trade Agreement). The students were also protesting a US military base established in 1999 in the coastal city of Manta, and demanding that the Ecuadoran government cancel its contract with the US oil company Occidental (Oxy). Police broke up the protests with tear gas. (EFE, Jan. 12; Prensa Latina, Jan. 12)

The protests continued on Jan. 13, as did police repression. Students threw rocks at police, and agents fired hundreds of tear gas grenades at protesters. More than 50 students were arrested and at least 20 were injured, according to Magdalena Velez, president of the Popular Front, a coalition of grassroots and labor groups. One police agent fired into the air and pointed his gun at several youth, allegedly to stop them from taking a police motorcycle which had stalled in the middle of the protest. Velez said student protests also took place in the provinces of Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Esmeraldas, Guayas and Manabi. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Jan. 14; PL, Jan. 13)

Following a break over the weekend, students resumed their protests on Jan. 16 after Minister of Government Alfredo Castillo suggested that a bus fare hike–demanded by transport owner-operators–was “inevitable.” Castillo said the dollarization of Ecuador’s economy, in effect since 2000, has created economic distortions and has made vehicle parts more expensive. Since 2000, the US dollar has lost nearly 50% of its acquisition power in Ecuador, said Castillo.

“We reject, emphatically, an increase in fares,” said Marcelo Rivera, a leader of the Federation of University Students of Ecuador (FEUE). “[W]e have no choice but to continue with the mobilizations.” (EFE, Jan. 17) Marches continued every day throughout the week; in addition to protesting the TLC, the Oxy contract and the Manta base, students were rejecting any bus fare hike, demanding student ID cards, protesting the police repression and demanding the release of the arrested demonstrators. (PL, Jan. 20) The Jan. 18 arrival in Ecuador of Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of US president George W. Bush, further stoked the protests. Jeb Bush went to Ecuador to promote the TLC. (Adital Jan. 19)

On Jan. 19, Castillo tried to calm the protesters by promising that bus fares would not be increased. Castillo also admitted that the police had committed “excesses” in their crackdowns on the protests. (Pulsar, Jan. 19) Castillo’s comments failed to stem either the protests or the repression. The Red Cross reported that 123 people were injured and more than 20 arrested in protests on Jan. 19. By Jan. 20, according to police, at least 142 people had been injured and 139 arrested. (AFP, PL, Jan. 20)

The Ecumenical Commission on Human Rights (CEDHU) condemned the repression and reported that police assigned to the National Congress have been illegally detaining and torturing young protesters in bathrooms and other areas of the building. According to testimony gathered by the commission, students have been punched, kicked, beaten and sprayed in the eyes and mouth with tear gas, and have been held for hours before being transferred to jails. The agents have also insulted and attacked human rights workers who try to assist the detainees, said CEDHU. (Adital, Jan. 19)

On Jan. 17, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) announced it was calling for a popular uprising to bring down all three branches of government: the Congress, President Alfredo Palacio and his ministers, and the judges. “They have not been capable of resolving the problems, for that reason we will rise up from below to reorganize the country,” said CONAIE in a communique. CONAIE is also demanding the suspension of negotiations over the TLC, the expulsion of Oxy from Ecuador, nationalization of the country’s oil resources and the withdrawal of US troops from Manta. (AFP, Jan. 17) The Unitary Workers Front (FUT), Ecuador’s main union federation, is demanding a 20% increase in the minimum wage and says that if bus fares go up, it will join in mass mobilizations and possibly a general strike. (EFE, Jan. 17)

Peru finished its TLC negotiations with the US in December; Colombia and Ecuador are still in talks with the US over details of the pact. (EFE, Jan. 12)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 22


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #117


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Feb. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution