What's Happening in Ecuador? Protests Over Fuel Subsidies Reach Sixth Day

Protesters have surrounded and entered the National Assembly building in Quito, Ecuador, as President Lenin Moreno attempts to quell unrest over an end to fuel subsidies from outside the capital.

Moreno announced a state of emergency on October 4 when protests erupted over the president's announcement that he would be ending fuel subsidies that have been in place for 40 years.

The situation escalated over the weekend, as indigenous-led groups and labor unions converged in the capital city of Quito to pressure the government. During a televised address on Monday, Moreno announced that the government would be leaving for the port city of Guayaquil over safety concerns.

"These incidents of vandalism and violence demonstrate there is some organized political intention to destabilize the government and break constitutional law, break democratic order," Moreno claimed during Monday's televised announcement. "They are foreign individuals, external and paid."

From the government's new location, Moreno tried to quell the demonstrations, now in their sixth day, by imposing a night curfew beginning Tuesday. Security forces in the capital have continued to battle mass protests, which have included barricades of burning tires, with tear gas and water cannons. According to Reuters, arrests are nearing 700.

Ecuador protests 2019
Demonstrators clash with riot police around the National Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, on October 8 following days of protests against the sharp rise in fuel prices sparked by a decision to scrap subsidies. MARTIN BERNETTI/ AFP/Getty

Moreno accused former President Rafael Correa of working with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to stoke unrest in an attempted to incite a coup. "This trick by Maduro with Correa is to cause instability," Moreno said Monday.

Correa, from his self-imposed exile in Belgium, denied the allegations. "They are such liars.... They say I am so powerful that with an iPhone from Brussels I could lead the protests," he told Reuters.

Many protesters are blaming the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the decision. As part of a $4.2 billion loan to the highly indebted country, approved in March, the loan stipulated a package of economic reforms to reduce debt.

Mesias Tatamuez, head of the Workers' United Front umbrella union, told Reuters, "What the government has done is reward the big banks, the capitalists and punish poor Ecuadoreans. We call on all those against the IMF, which is responsible for this crisis, to join the strike."

According to the IMF, the economic reforms outlined in the loan call for "careful and gradual optimization of fuel subsidies."

Moreno claimed that the fuel subsidies were canceled since they are no longer affordable, costing the government $1.3 billion annually.

He also said the price of gasoline would go up to $2.30 a gallon from $1.85 and the cost of diesel up to $2.27 from $1.03.