Ecuador’s Fuel Riot

In early October, Ecuador was swept by a wave of protests against the abolition of fuel subsidies by the Lenin Moreno government. As a result of the capture by the protesters of the country’s capital, Quito, authorities fled the city and were eventually forced to leave the fuel subsidy system intact.

To understand the reason for such actions by the government that calls itself left, it is necessary to consider the events that occurred in Ecuador over the past 20 years.

In 1998–1999, a severe economic crisis erupted in the country, to which the authorities responded by cutting budget spending. Due to the rapid depreciation of the national currency, the US dollar was introduced into circulation. Economic collapse hit the villagers hardest, most of whom are Indians. One of the points of the “austerity program” was precisely the abolition of fuel subsidies. The protests of the Indians quickly swept the whole country, and the army of Ecuador overthrew the president of the country, Hamil Mauad, thus eliminating the formal source of problems.

Workers’ Front of Latvia contacted a resident of one of the small cities, who has relatives in Guayaquil (the second largest city in Ecuador). She reports: “We are very shocked by what is happening in big cities. Many dead. They don’t show anything on the news, people don’t know much and think that nothing is happening. In fact, everything is very serious. Just in case, we stocked up provisions and are waiting for the end of this horror. For the third week, protests and rallies, shots and marches have been ongoing. All attacks on the government are justified: these are the worst people in power in so many years. Even after the earthquake in April 2016, there weren’t so many things that disconnect our people.”

After a series of right-wing presidents, Rafael Correa, representative of the PAIS1 socialist alliance, was elected in 2007. Thanks to the high oil prices, Ecuador’s main export product, the government has created programs to provide social support to the poor, which consisted of simply distributing benefits. After falling oil prices in 2014, which led to a sharp drop in revenue, Correa decided not to run for a fourth term in 2017. Instead, his comrade-in-arms Lenin Boltire Moreno was elected, who announced the continuation of the course of his predecessor. However, oil prices remained low, which increased the burden on the budget of this already poor country. The government masked economic miscalculations with external loans, as a result of which Ecuador’s debt over the past 6 years has grown from $10 billion to more than $40 billion.

To avoid another economic collapse, the country’s authorities plan to leave OPEC in 2020 for the sake of the opportunity to export oil above the established quotas. The Moreno government also requested the IMF to make an emergency loan. In exchange for the promised $4.2 billion, Ecuador should lay off civil servants, cut social benefits, privatize state-owned enterprises, lower import duties, increase tax revenues and abolish fuel subsidies. In general, the volume of all state social programs should be reduced by more than 75% (from 6.1 billion to 1.5 billion dollars). The abolition of fuel subsidies will increase the price of gasoline from 0.49 to 0.61 dollars per liter, and diesel fuel - from 0.27 to as much as 0.60 dollars per liter! It is this step that will hit the poor most of all: a sharp increase in fuel prices will lead to an inevitable increase in prices for all goods, including food. The adoption of these economic measures was approved by both the “socialists” of the PAIS and the right-wing opposition.

As a result of the neoliberal policy of the Moreno government, a social explosion occurred in the country. Cornered people took to the streets and demanded the abolition of cannibalistic economic “reforms.” On the streets, slogans are heard: “Neither Correa, nor Moreno, only the people will save themselves!” Ecuadorians admit their joint guilt in the situation and that they believed the false promises of the bourgeois parties. The police and the army could not intimidate the people: in a fit of unity, he thwarted the government’s plan and forced him to retreat. But for how long?

In Ecuador, there is a revolutionary situation, but there is no organized working class that would go after its vanguard – the Communist Party. The working people are tremendously powerful, but all this power is useless if people are deceived and put to sleep with catchy slogans like “21st century socialism.” Random riots and protests will only replace one bourgeois government with another, delay the offensive on the rights of workers. Ecuador, like many countries in Latin America, fell into the “left-right” swing, where successive parties with different rhetoric are actually the same puppets of financial capital and fulfill any of its requirements. Thus, the hopes of the people each time end in disappointment and apathy.

Real transformations are possible only if there is a fundamentally new project for the development of the country. This is achievable only if there is a mature communist party in society, which fundamentally and consistently expresses its position, which artfully owns Marxism-Leninism as an advanced theory of the liberation of society, develops and applies it in practice. We need a party that is closely connected with the working people, firmly defends their interests and transforms them into a united working class, ready to take state power. Ecuador, like any other country of capitalism, has all the conditions for the emergence of such a party. It will be successful only with an extremely high theoretical preparation of its core, capable of preventing the decomposition and decay of the entire movement. Is PCMLE2 or a similar batch capable of this?

1Spanish “Patria Altiva y Soberana” – Proud and Sovereign Homeland, sounds like Spanish word “pais” – country

2Partido Comunista Marxista Leninista del Ecuador – Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador