EIGHT police officers have been taken hostage in Ecuador during an escalating revolutionary uprising that has forced the government to flee from the capital, Quito. Indigenous demonstrators paraded the eight police officers, seven men and a woman, forced them onto a stage and made them remove their helmets, bullet-proof vests and boots.
Ecuador has been ravaged by the economic crisis, and the mass movement demands President Lenín Moreno quits and the savage austerity is brought to an end.
Fuel and food prices have rocketed. In recent days, thousands of angry protesters, led by Indigenous people, have battled fiercely with security forces in Quito. They have set up barricades with burning tyres, stormed buildings and clashed with security forces, who have attacked the crowds with brutal force and volleys of tear gas. Police have deployed armoured vehicles and water cannon.
Two people have been killed so far in the uprising and dozens more injured. Over 680 people have been arrested. Demonstrators have been using homemade firebombs to attack riot police, covering their faces to avoid identification. The whole city is in total shutdown.
On Wednesday, demonstrators stormed the government building. The building however is heavily guarded by armed police. Demonstrators briefly burst through a police cordon before being driven back with tear gas. Last week, the right-wing president declared a state of emergency and moved his government to the second city of Guayaquil.
It was President Moreno who sparked the uprising, ending the fuel subsidy, which cost the government $1.3bn (£1bn) annually, and claiming it was no longer affordable, causing fuel prices to rocket by over 300%.
The protests are led by Indigenous people, descendants of the original Ecuadorians who were there before the Spanish colonisation of the Americas. Protests led by Indigenous people have toppled three presidents in the past few decades.
While the eight officers were paraded on the stage, Indigenous leader, Jaime Vargas, head of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), declared to the cheering crowd: ‘We’re going to radicalise with more force!’
Moreno won a narrow victory in Ecuador’s election in April 2017. During his election, he called himself a ‘democratic socialist’. However, after his election he drastically shifted his political stance, distancing himself from ex-President Correa’s socialist legacy and viciously attacking the working class with massive cuts in living standards.
Moreno was also responsible for allowing the British police into the Ecuadorian embassy in west London to seize WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange is now languishing in Belmarsh prison and threatened with extradition to the US for exposing their war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Moreno’s government has sacked thousands of public sector workers, slashed public spending, and removed the fuel subsidy, all as part of a loan deal agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in March, which allows Ecuador to borrow $4.2bn (£3.4bn).
Demonstrators demand that Moreno tear up the agreement. He insists he would resign ‘under no circumstance’.
Venezuelan President Maduro, who right wingers claim has influenced the protests, said Ecuador was rejecting the IMF’s ‘savage capitalist model. That’s why the Ecuadorian people are in the streets; not because of Maduro, because of survival.’
Back in 2000, the then-president Jamil Mahuad changed Ecuador’s currency to the US dollar and handed the economy over to the IMF.
This is how the IMF operates: Loan a country millions of dollars, rake in huge amounts of interest, make the workers and rural poor of the country pay for the loan with their jobs, services and livelihoods.
The trade unions have now joined the mass demonstrations in Ecuador. What has begun as a Indigenous-led uprising against Moreno must be completed with a socialist revolution to overthrow Moreno and install a workers and small farmers government that will dump the IMF, seize the land and industries and put the entire country under workers control, giving a brilliant example for all the peoples of the Americas to follow!