Indigenous Ecuadorians Lead Uprising Against Soaring Cost of Living

Ecuador has been rocked by protests since June 12 as indigenous Ecuadorians have mobilized massively against rising fuel prices and other economic policies of the right wing government of President Guillermo Lasso. His collaboration with the international banking world to make the poor pay for the crisis that was worsened by the pandemic has left 65% of their population unemployed. Nearly three in five indigenous Ecuadorians live in poverty, which is about double that of the general population. Since the pandemic began, fuel prices have nearly doubled.

The upsurge by indigenous Ecuadorians brought thousands marching on the capital, Quito, and has brought the domestic economy to a grinding halt by blockading many major highways throughout the country. Their protest movement has been supported by other sections of the population and the working class in the cities, who also are suffering from the crippling increases in prices. The government lost control of the city of Puyo in the Amazon due to the mobilizing.

Led by by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) the protesters have demanded that the government reduce fuel prices, subsidize fertilizers, increase the budget for education, and cancel all new mining projects on indigenous lands.

These demands are crucial to indigenous Ecuadorians, many of whom rely on growing crops in rural, impoverished parts of the country and selling these crops in markets in the cities. With increased fuel and fertilizer prices, many farmers cannot make ends meet with current price hikes. In addition, the Indigenous population lacks resources and investment in education, and is often in conflict with the government’s new mining and fossil fuel projects on indigenous land.

The protest movement has made a huge impact on the country. Among many consequences, the disruption has reduced the country’s ability to export oil. On June 23, the protesters attempted to storm the Ecuadorian National Assembly to demand concessions from the government, leading to the arrest of the president of CONAIE, Leonidas Iza.

In response to this huge upsurge, the President Lasso has agreed to a cut of fuel prices, but protesters are saying this is not enough. The President has agreed to meet with CONAIE leadership in the coming days to discuss their demands, but it remains to be seen how this struggle will evolve.

The courageous fight of these Ecuadorians is an impressive example to look at as we struggle against the same global capitalist system worldwide, and ruling elites that are making outrageous profits from this inflation crisis while we suffer. We have seen explosions of frustration over inflation rock Chile, Peru and Honduras. This struggle is a foreshadowing of what we can expect in the wake of the crisis of this system.