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Reforms, fuel hikes and Pandora give life to protests in Ecuador

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The tax and fiscal reforms that the president intends to carry out Guillermo Lasso, the progressive increase in fuel prices and the appearance of the president’s name in the Pandora Papers are the gasoline of the protests called this Tuesday in Ecuador, which will reach their climax in the afternoon.

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The Ecuadorian capital woke up this Tuesday in a tense calm but with the hope that the social and union demonstrations will pass peacefully and will not overflow as happened in 2019, although the police and military high command are aware that any match can provoke a fire.

The police in front

“We as the National Police handle the scenarios before, during and after. We carry out a series of operations from 00.00 (local) to avoid interrupting the pedestrian, vehicular, commercial or financial circulation of the city ”, explained Colonel Juan Carlos Soria Alulema, commander of the Manuela Saenz district, the historic center of Quito.

In front of several hundred agents, in the Plaza Grande, at the foot of the Government Palace, the police command explained this morning the role that they will have throughout the day, in which the arrival of thousands of protesters to the town is expected Ancient, a World Heritage Site since 1978 and the scene of so many revolts throughout Ecuadorian history.

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And as is customary in Ecuador, each one with its own collective and private lawsuit, although all seem to be synthesized in a serious discontent of the Lasso government, which has only been in office for five months.

“The economic packages, the rise in fuel prices, unemployment, there is no access to universities. The town is tired. The unconstitutional decrees that allowed the increase (of fuel) to the people have not been repealed. (The president) made fun of the people! ”, Said Assemblyman Bruno Segovia, of the Pachakutik indigenous movement, the first to arrive in Quito and concentrate in a mall at the gates of the old town.

For the Police, “the first alarm”, in the words of Soria Alulema to his agents, who at 10:00 local time (17:00 GMT) had already cordoned off all accesses within a radius of hundreds of meters around the headquarters of the Presidency.

Two security perimeters

On the outer perimeter, the one with the greatest contact with the protesters who will be approaching throughout the day, the National Police, is stationed behind interlocking fences and bars to prevent someone from sneaking in.

Behind each one, a contingent of regular police officers and also anti-riot agents, located at the ends of each and every one of the alleys that lead to the Plaza Grande.

In the interior entrances, less than a hundred meters from the Carondelet Palace, were the Armed Forces, with special groups whose sole objective is to prevent, if necessary, an assault on the Presidency.

A captain of one of the special units stationed on García Moreno Street, a few dozen meters from the entrance to the Palace, explained that their mission is to prevent the advance of any protester.

“But we are not the first, we are the last line,” he said, pointing to a police checkpoint hundreds of meters away, on a steep slope.

None of those consulted could say if the president was in the Palace today, information that has been confirmed to Efe by the Communication Secretariat, specifying that he will hold meetings there throughout the day.

In 2019, with a wave of disturbances much more serious than expected this Tuesday, as a result of a decree that eliminated historical subsidies for gasoline, the then president Lenín Moreno was evacuated to the city of Guayaquil (southwest).

Pandora’s box

The current ruler, in addition to a feared “package” of labor and tax measures, is accused of alleged corruption after his name appeared on the Pandora Papers.

“It is not possible that the first representative of the State, the one who must demonstrate honesty and transparency, is linked to acts of corruption. He himself states that those who have money in tax havens are corrupt and are hiding ill-gotten money ”, added Segovia.

Lasso, who is being investigated by a commission of the National Assembly and by the Prosecutor’s Office, denies any irregularity, and assures that he disposed of all his assets in tax havens when Ecuador passed a law, in 2017, that prohibited public officials. and elected candidates.

But their arguments have had little impact among the social groups most affected by the crisis in the country, nor the unions that today began to take to the streets and head to Quito.

In contrast to the tension in the area, some street vendors that began to deploy through the alleys of the old town with drinks and food, or the shoe shine who usually offer their services in the Plaza Grande, who first thing in the morning shined the shoes of the few passers-by who could still pass through the emblematic square, where the monument to the freedom of Ecuadorians stands.

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