Protesters took to the streets of Ecuador’s major cities on Thursday, blocking major roads in Quito and Guayaquil to protest the scrapping of fuel subsidies, part of the government’s austerity measures aimed to reduce the fiscal budget.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno took to Twitter Thursday to say that he had declared a state of emergency in the country over nationwide protests which have paralysed the country, saying that his decisions introducing austerity measures “were firm,” and that the state of emergency was aimed at reigning in “those who intend to cause chaos.”
“We will not agree to blackmail and act according to the law,” Moreno wrote.
Moreno made the announcement after Interior Minister Maria Romo announced that 19 protesters had been arrested for blocking roads and other disruptive behaviour as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, chanting slogans and burning tires, marking their anger at the elimination of long-standing fuel subsidies worth over $1.3 billion a year, as part of an austerity plan which also includes mass layoffs of employees from state-owned companies, and plans to privatise CNT, a state-owned telecommunications provider, and other firms, as well as changes to the tax code.
Moreno signed a decree on ending diesel and gasoline subsidies on Tuesday in order to comply with the loan conditions of the International Monetary Fund, which has offered Ecuador a $4.2 billion loan package in exchange for the adoption of a series of neoliberal economic policies, including the end of subsidies, changes to the tax code, and privatisation.