Ecuador should go its own way, not the IMF’s, says protest leader

People protest against President Guillermo Lasso’s economic and environmental policies, in Quito, Ecuador June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Alarcon Reuters_tickers

This content was published on June 18, 2022 – 00:53

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso should focus less on the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if he wants to solve the economic and social problems his people face every day, the leader of the indigenous protest said on Friday. Leonidas Iza.

CONAIE, Ecuador’s largest indigenous organization, launched protests on Monday. Protesters blocked roads across the country in opposition to Lasso’s social and economic policies, demanding a freeze on gas prices, a halt to new mining and oil projects and more time for small farmers to repay their bank loans.

CONAIE chief Iza told Reuters in an interview that indigenous protesters believed the scenario imposed by the IMF was being followed too “rigorously” by the government and worsening the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s poor.

The Ecuadorian presidency was not immediately available for comment.

The $6.5 billion agreement between Ecuador and the IMF ends this year. The plan agreed with the multinational organization includes tax increases, the removal of subsidies and greater coverage of economic aid for vulnerable sectors.

However, IMF policies aimed at improving the country’s fiscal deficit, international reserves and risk do not match the reality on the ground, Iza said.

“The government wants to govern by focusing on positive numbers,” he said.

Lasso has called for dialogue amid the unrest, while threatening to use force to quell protests, which have led to shortages of some products.

Some sectors of society feel more benefited than others by Lasso’s policies, Iza said, adding that proposals made by indigenous communities would share the burden equally.

“Nobody wants to ignore the crisis that the Ecuadorian state is facing, but we must understand that the crisis affects everyone,” he said.

Protests will continue until Lasso responds to native demands, Iza said.

“It’s still in the hands of the president,” he said.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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