Ecuadorean protesters halted transport, barricaded streets and clashed with police for a second day on Friday as almost 370 people were jailed over unrest triggered by President Lenin Moreno’s scrapping of fuel subsidies, ONA reports citing Reuters.
The 66-year-old president has set oil producer Ecuador on a centrist path after years of leftist rule under Rafael Correa and is implementing a belt-tightening fiscal package to conform with a $4.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal.
But his elimination of the decades-old fuel subsidies has incensed many Ecuadoreans and brought violent protests back to a nation with a history of political volatility.
From the highland capital Quito to the coastal city of Guayaquil, many bus and taxi services were still halted on Friday, while demonstrators blocked roads with tires, stones and branches, albeit it in lesser numbers than the previous day. The government said security forces had managed to subdue protests in some provinces and restore “normality.”
On Thursday, the day fuel prices rose, masked protesters hurled stones, set up burning blockades and battled police who deployed armored cars and tear gas during the worst unrest for years in the country of 17 million people.
Transport unions have led the protests, joined by indigenous groups, students and other unions. Protest leaders at a news conference in Quito on Friday said demonstrations would continue and called for a nationwide strike on Oct. 19.
“Not even jail will stop the Ecuadorean people’s struggle,” said Nelson Erazo, head of the Popular Front, an organization that groups together unions and social movements. “These will be days of unrest.”
Moreno’s popularity has sunk to below 30% compared with above 70% after his 2017 election, but his political position appears firm given support from the business elite, military loyalty, and the lack of a strong opposition.
However, Ecuadoreans are mindful that protests toppled three presidents during economic turmoil in the decade before Correa took power in 2007.