Ecuador: massive protests against US trade talks

Unelected President Palacio faces massive demands to stop his intended economic sell-out to the US. From 13 March daily mass demonstrations blocked roads in 12 provinces. On 18 March 10,000 workers marched on Riobamba. Everywhere demands continued to end the ‘Free Trade’ talks, the expulsion of the Occidental Oil Corporation – in breach of 30 laws – from the country and the creation of a Constituent Assembly. Palacio refused. Executive Minister Castillo resigned. Police and army attacks badly injured 30 protesters and killed one. 300 protesters were affected by gas. The government accused ‘foreign infiltrators’ of fomenting protest, and then apologised for implying Chavez was one.

If concluded, the ‘confidential’ talks in Washington will remove average tariffs of 18% for the local economy. Local taxes will have to increase to raise state revenue. US non-tariff barriers to Ecuador’s produce are excluded. Genetically modified crops will be forced on the country. Foreign investors will be given free rein to plunder the country’s bio-diversity. The indigenous peoples’ movements estimate that 90-100% of manufacturing will disappear in 11 of the 22 provinces, and 18% of traditional agricultural workers and inland fishermen, and 16% of fishermen along the coast will lose their jobs. Santiago de la Cruz, vice president of the Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), announced on 24 March that community and popular assemblies would be established for the people to decide the fate of the Free Trade Agreement.

Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 190 April / May 2006


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