Ecuador/demonstrations: Parliament resumes its debates, oil production soon to be stopped

Posted 27 June, 2022

Ecuadorian MPs resumed on Sunday their debate on the possible impeachment of President Guillermo Lasso, who announced a drop in fuel prices, on the 13th day of indigenous protests over the cost of living that threaten to halt production of oil in the country within 48 hours according to the government.

The announced price drop - of ten cents per gallon - nevertheless remains significantly lower than the demands of the thousands of natives who have been demonstrating and blocking part of the country since June 13.

At the request of deputies supporting former socialist president Rafael Correa (2007-2017), the unicameral parliament has been examining since Saturday evening the request for the dismissal of Mr. Lasso, whom opposition deputies hold responsible for the "serious political crisis" which is shaking the country.

Suspended in the night from Saturday to Sunday, the debates resumed, by teleconference, at the end of the afternoon. A majority of 92 votes out of 137 is necessary for the impeachment procedure to be adopted, while the opposition is in the majority but divided within the Assembly.


"Fighting Us in the Street"


The head of state, a former banker in power since May 2021, has delegated his legal secretary Fabio Pozo to represent him before the assembly.

Since June 13, thousands of indigenous demonstrators have been mobilized across the country to protest against the rising cost of living and demand in particular a drop in fuel prices, according to the police, who estimate their number at nearly 10,000. in the capital.

The violence between demonstrators and police left five dead, according to a human rights NGO. Some 500 people were injured - civilians, police, and soldiers - according to various sources.

Roadblocks and blockades continue in 19 of the country's 24 provinces. Shortages are already being reported in Quito, where prices have soared and many markets remain closed.

Oil production in Ecuador is at a "critical level" and will cease within 48 hours if protests and blockades continue, the Energy Ministry said on Sunday, speaking of production already reduced today to 50% from normal.

"Vandalism, seizure of wells, and road closures have prevented the transportation of supplies and diesel needed to maintain operations," according to the ministry. Oil, extracted in the Amazon provinces, is the country's main export product.

"The economic losses as a whole (...) amount to 500 million dollars", according to the Minister of Production, Julio José Prado.

Sunday was calm, without procession in the streets of Quito, where the demonstrators remained to rest in particular in an indigenous cultural center and in two universities which they occupy.

The leader of the movement, Leonidas Iza, the head of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Connie, spearhead of the demonstrations), spoke in front of some of his supporters in Arbolito Park, one of the hearts of the protest. , promising the continuation of the demonstrations.

"Tomorrow we will meet to continue fighting in the streets, today we will reorganize", launched Mr. Iza, in his usual red poncho and black felt hat on his head.


"Abndonner la violence"


Saturday evening, Mr. Lasso had ended the state of emergency declared eight days earlier in six of the 24 provinces of the country, the most affected by the demonstrations.

On the same day, the first attempt at dialogue between leaders of the indigenous movement, including Mr. Iza, and several government ministers, was held under the auspices of the President of the Assembly, Virgilio Saquicela. But without result.

Sunday evening, President Lasso renewed the call for "dialogue", assuring that his government has "an outstretched hand". He, however, warned, "those who seek chaos, violence and terrorism (that they) will find the full force of the law".

On Friday, he accused the demonstrators of wanting to "perpetrate a coup".

Mobilizations of the indigenous movement caused the fall of three presidents between 1997 and 2005.

From Rome, Pope Francis called for calm on Sunday: "I follow with concern what is happening in Ecuador", said the pope just after his traditional Sunday prayer of the Angelus.

"I encourage all parties to abandon violence and extremist positions," he added, "let's learn (that) social peace can only be found through dialogue, hopefully soon."

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