Ecuador adjustment protesters strike deal

5 April 2001

In late January and early February Ecuadorean indigenous groups led further protests against government and IMF economic policies. An agreement was finally reached on 7 February between the government and CONAIE, the National Confederation of Indigenous Peoples.

It included a one-year freeze on petrol prices, a 40 cent cut in the cost of a tank of cooking fuel, and cheaper public transport fares for children, students, and the elderly. CONAIE vice president Ricardo Ulcuango said the agreement was “a triumph of the indigenous people, of the Ecuadorean people”. Presidential press secretary Alfredo Negrete said the government had learned that it must work more directly with the indigenous peoples on policies that affect them.

In late January, after taking over the local CNN television studio, indigenous leader Salvador Quispe said his people wanted “to denounce internationally the servile attitude of the president of the republic before the IMF, Plan Colombia, and the national financial sector, an attitude that has imposed great sacrifices on the Ecuadorean people.”

“The heart of the problem is how to deal with poverty, which is being heightened by the economic reforms,” said Juan Fernando Teran of the Instituto de Ecologia y Desarrollo de las Comunidades Andinas (IEDECA), an NGO that works with indigenous communities and is part of the structural adjustment participatory review initiative. “If this is not addressed, the protests will return. Every year the IMF and World Bank come to this country asking the government to impose these measures and this is the third year running that we’ve had such demonstrations.”

Interior Minister Juan Manrique said the indigenous peoples’ demands were “absurd,” and that it was “inappropriate” to ask the government to repeal the adjustment measures because they would reactivate the economy. In mid February the government reached a preliminary agreement with the IMF that will allow it to tap $130 million in existing credits and extend a current loan. In return the government will stick to its economic programme which focuses on growth and lowering inflation. This agreement will allow Ecuador to tap a $70 million credit from the World Bank and a $60 million loan from the IDB. The government will soon negotiate a new programme and 2-year loan with the IMF that “has a wider reach,” said Economy Minister Jorge Gallardo.