Ecuador: 18 historical days of strike, first conclusions

The national strike in Ecuador, ended on June 30th, Thursday, after 18 days of struggle. We bring some of the first opinions on the result of this new popular mobilization.

By Alberto Giovanelli

There are several issues that, at some point, will have to be considered for a general balance. The class struggle and the fight for the rights of peoples and nationalities has a long history and will continue sooner rather than later.

Among these many issues to be taken into account, it is worth considering especially some of those aspects that have been present throughout the 18 days of the National Strike that forced the government to sit down and partially give in to the demands that gave rise to the conflict.

A first result of the repressive policy of Lasso and his government tells us that at the moment there are six dead among the demonstrators. There is also one dead from the military ranks of peasants, hundreds wounded, a dozen people still missing and also a hundred people detained by the repressive forces who have been gradually regaining their freedom.

We must also highlight that despite the violence of the police and military forces after the arrest of Leonidas Iza, president of CONAIE, each expression of this type unified the popular forces and increased the struggle. The actions developed in all the provinces of the country also added participants with their own agendas and demands, achieving an almost total shutdown throughout the length and breadth of Ecuador.

The government negotiates and has to give in

These conditions, in which the struggle grew for 18 days and the economy came to a halt, demonstrated that the government could neither control the situation nor avoid the protests, thus deepening the government’s political weakness and discredit until it was cornered in what seemed to be a dead end.

For this reason, after 12 days of conflict, Lasso made announcements in response to the popular demands, which took the form of: increasing the human development bonus to $55; declaring an emergency in the public health system; doubling the budget for intercultural education; subsidizing up to 50% of the price of urea to small and medium producers; forgiving all overdue credits up to $3000; agricultural credit of up to $5000 at 1% and 30 years term; no increase in diesel, gas, extra gasoline and ecopaís; no privatization of public services and strategic sectors.

Although insufficient and without operational definitions, these were the first victories of the strike. Shortly thereafter, the government decided to lower the price of diesel, extra gasoline and ecopaís by 10 cents on the dollar per gallon; it also decided to sell cooking oil for popular sectors at a 20% lower price.

After some back and forth, the government was forced to sit down and negotiate with the indigenous leaders (CONAIE, FEINE and FENOCIN), agreeing to broadcast the event on community media and only two commercial channels. Those who watched these meetings could only recognize the justice of the protest.

Simultaneously, also in the National Assembly, the possible removal of the president was discussed, this was not a central point because it was known that there would not be enough votes (80 out of a minimum of 92 required) but it was the tool used by Correism to try to relocate itself during the conflict, in an attempt to capitalize electorally in the future.  However, also the result in the Assembly is one more proof of the political weakness of the regime and of the obstacles it will face in the remaining three years when trying to exercise its executive role.

The evidence that the strike continued and was gaining new strength, provoked the urgent intervention of the Catholic Church, and the acceptance of the parties to continue the negotiation. The government also had to leave unresolved the discourse that tried to ignore the main indigenous leader Leonidas Iza, sitting with him as the legitimate representative of the CONAIE.

Lifting of the strike, partial achievements

Finally, on Thursday 30 in the morning, an agreement was signed between the parties, with the following central resolutions:

  • An additional reduction of 5 cents (total 15 cents) on diesel, extra gasoline and ecopaís. (CONAIE’s original request was 40 cents).
  • To stop the speculative process.
  • The derogation of Decree 95 (the government, less than 24 hours after signing the agreement, recognized the impossibility of complying with this condition of the mining business association).
  • Important reforms to Decree 191 (mining policy).
  • To properly carry out the preliminary consultation with the communities and indigenous peoples and nationalities.
  • To reform the law so that greater oil resources are distributed in the Amazon, from where the resource is extracted.

Simultaneously, they agree to establish a dialogue table with the presence of the guarantors with a methodology within the next 90 days.

The results, it cannot be ignored, constitute a partial but important triumph of a popular mobilization of immense magnitude. If we speak of partial triumph it is because we cannot fail to emphasize that the objective conditions and the spirit of struggle were unbeatable to deliver a knockout blow to Lasso’s government. As the social rejection grew and the national cry “Out, Lasso” spread, Iza, from the CONAIE leadership and the rest of the leaders, showed more haste and almost desperation to reach an agreement that would allow to quickly start the demobilization process and the return of the indigenous communities arrived in Quito to their respective regions.

We can ask ourselves why, when the fate of the Government was once again in the hands of CONAIE and the rest of the organizations, did they back down, force the negotiation and accept partial answers to the demands? The people in the streets have delivered a heavy blow to the government of Lasso and the IMF, but if it survives it is because the leadership never proposed to overturn it, on the contrary, instead of calling to further the mobilization and hitting harder against a rival that was groggy, they were content with backing down and trying to convince their bases explaining once and a thousand times that what was achieved was the most that could be achieved.

This does not imply that the Government is going to accept resignation. Nothing has been resolved, for example, regarding Decree 457 of “Guidelines for the optimization of public spending”, dated June 18, 2022, which includes the suppression of public jobs, elimination of vacancies and the termination of contracts and provisional appointments and the possibility of increases in the prices of public services, an essential point of what was imposed by the IMF.

Contradictions grow

The victory after 18 days of strike does not imply a full stop. In the particular conditions of Ecuador, similar to those of all Latin America, it is one more chapter for a government of those who never governed.

While the indigenous and peasant leaderships get ready and function as a guarantee of institutional stability, the old union bureaucracies only make declarations of commitment and Correism acts from parliamentarism, refusing one or the other to deepen the process of mobilization until the fall of Lasso or any of the bourgeois governments that could arise.  New altercations are looming in view of the imminent non-fulfillment of the agreements reached at the negotiating table, since less than 24 hours after the signing of the minutes of agreement, numerous ministers expressed the impossibility of being able to comply with them. The leadership of CONAIE and the rest of the indigenous and peasant organizations refuse once again to assume a responsibility imposed on them by reality, to govern Ecuador once and for all. If there are no fundamental changes, again and again the circuit of fighting and negotiation will be repeated at the cost of the lives of millions of Ecuadorians.

It is impossible to demand from the Ecuadorian people greater heroism in their struggle, it remains as an unpostponable task to overcome the reformist leaderships that raise false expectations in the concessions they can achieve within a capitalist economy and society that suffers an irreversible crisis. That is why it is our responsibility not to exhaust our efforts to forge that alternative, anti-capitalist, socialist and revolutionary leadership that is capable of supporting the mobilized people in overcoming their current leaders and advancing towards a true and definitive solution, that of a government of the workers, indigenous communities, peasants and social organizations. So that once and for all those who have never governed can govern.