Mon | Oct 14, 2019

Crisis in Ecuador over end to fuel subsidies

Published:Tuesday | October 8, 2019 | 3:23 PM
Commuters hitching a ride watch from the back of a truck as soldiers stand guard to keep the roads open, along the Simon Bolivar highway, in Quito, Ecuador, Monday, October 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador has endured days of popular upheaval since President Lenín Moreno scrapped fuel price subsidies, a step that set off protests and clashes across the small South American country. 

Last week, Moreno declared an end to government subsidies that had been holding down fuel prices, saying the move was part of a package of measures designed to revitalise Ecuador’s economy.

The announcement triggered a strike by transport workers that ended a few days later, but clashes involving youths and also members of Ecuador’s indigenous communities have kept up pressure on the government.

The widespread unrest reflects a sense of alienation among many people who were already suffering economic hardship.

Economic problems stem from the high public indebtedness inherited from the 2007-2017 administration of President Rafael Correa.

His successor, Moreno, has also sought credit with international agencies, especially the International Monetary Fund.

The president has taken a firm stance, saying he will not budge on the end to fuel subsidies and imposing a state of emergency when protests started to become chaotic.

The government says about 350 people have been detained for blocking traffic, interrupting public services or attacking police.

Moreno may be hoping to ride out the demonstrations in the belief that they will eventually subside.

But the situation has turned increasingly sour, with the emergence of protesters from indigenous communities highlighting widening divisions.

There have been reports of looting and signs of food scarcity in some markets in the country, deepening the burden on people who were already struggling to meet basic needs.

The government says economic paralysis from the street protests is causing the country $70 million a day, a situation that is likely to fuel public dissatisfaction the longer it continues.

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