The use of violence to restrict ongoing protests in Ecuador and the refusal of the government to heed the demands of the protesters further threatens fundamental freedoms, Global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.
Over the last ten days, protests led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), trade unions and social movements against the government’s economic policies have been met with violence and arrests from the security forces. According to human rights groups monitoring the protests, 3 people have been killed, more than 94 protesters have been arrested and 92 including journalists injured so far.
On 14 June, the Ecuadorian National Police in the Andean province of Cotopaxi arrested Indigenous rights activist and President of Conaie - Leonidas Iza Salazar in the early hours of the morning and held him incommunicado for 24 hours, 15 of which were spent in isolation. He was accused of “paralysing public services” by the authorities but was eventually released on the orders of a judge. Prior to his arrest, his vehicle was shot at by unidentified individuals during the early moments when the protests started. His case will be heard again on 4 July.
By using violence to repress peaceful protests organised to raise concerns over the socio-economic situation of the people of Ecuador, the authorities are ignoring the demands of communities and violating their rights to protest peacefully in the process. The solution to the crisis does not lie in silencing the voices of those who raise concerns but on inclusive decision-making process and actions that put the people and especially marginalised Indigenous communities at the centre. Said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for CIVICUS.
Those leading the protests have outlined several demands to the government including a call to respect the rights of Indigenous communities, stronger labour rights and fair prices on farm produce and a cap on increasing prices for fuel and other basic commodities.
In response to the protests, President Lasso issued an Executive Decree which declared a state of emergency in six provinces including Cotopaxi, Pichincha and Imbabura and suspended the rights of association and assembly for 30 days. The state of emergency guarantees the mobilisation and participation of security forces to respond to the protests and “establish order.” Protesters have defied the state of emergency as protests have spread to almost all 24 provinces.
CIVICUS calls on the authorities in Ecuador to respect the right to protest and desist from using violence and arbitrary arrests to restrict them. Authorities should engage in inclusive discussions with protest leaders to seek solutions to the socio-economic challenges facing communities.
Civic space in Ecuador is rated as “Obstructed” by the CIVICUS Monitor