Ecuadorians Fed Up With High Gas Prices, Inflation Begin Demonstrations

Ecuador Gas Prices Protest Roadblocks Inflation Indigenous
Protesters in Ecuador blocked highways while demanding that gas prices drop to $1.50 per gallon on Monday. Above, burning tires obstruct a road near Quito, Ecuador. VERONICA LOMBEIDA/AFP/Getty

Indigenous protesters in Ecuador have blocked roads with burning tires and debris while demanding that their government force a price cut to fuel.

Access to the national capital Quito was partially obstructed due to at least 20 roadblocks from those protesting gas prices and rising inflation on Monday, according to the BBC. The protests were organized by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), which is demanding that Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso drop gas prices and freeze them at $1.50 per gallon, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

CONAIE previously led protests that reportedly resulted in 11 deaths and forced former President Lenin Moreno to abandon plans to discontinue fuel subsidies in 2019. The country's current president fixed gas prices at $2.55 per gallon last October following pressure from the group, although the price freeze did little to satisfy those demanding a further drop in prices amid mass unemployment and poverty.

"This is our show of strength until the government listens," Manuel Cocha, one of dozens of protesters blocking a portion of the Pan-American Highway near Quito, told AFP.

Leonidas Izas, the leader of CONAIE, said that the protesters had "to resort to resistance in view of the national government putting in place more and more policies of death, which don't allow us to sustain our small economies," according to the BBC.

The Indigenous population accounts for roughly 1.1 million of around 17.7 million people in Ecuador. Poor economic conditions in the country have hit Indigenous people particularly hard, with almost 60 percent of the population experiencing poverty in 2020, nearly double the rate among the general population, according to Statista.

In addition to a drop in gas prices, the protesters are demanding that the Ecuadorian government drop prices on basic food items. They are also calling on the government to block mining and oil developments and extend debt repayment deadlines for small farmers, according to Reuters. Izas has vowed that the demonstrations will continue until the demands are met.

Luis Lara, Ecuador's defense minister, reportedly said strategic locations such as fuel depots remained "under control" despite the protests. Lasso has warned protesters that the government will not tolerate attempts to "paralyze" the country.

"A paralyzed day is a lost day," the Ecuadorian president tweeted on Monday afternoon. "There is no reason for a violent protest, Ecuadorian families deserve to live in safety and peace."

Ecuador's fixed fuel price remains significantly lower than prices in most of the world. Only 22 countries have a lower average gas price than Ecuador, while gas is more expensive in over 140 other countries, according to tracking website Global Petrol Prices. Gas prices are higher than the $1.50 per gallon that protesters are demanding in all but seven countries—Venezuela, Libya, Iran, Syria, Algeria, Kuwait and Angola.

Newsweek reached out to Ecuador's embassy in Washington, D.C., for comment.