|2015 Ecuadorian protests|
|Date||8 June 2015 – 16 September 2015|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2015 Ecuadorian protests were a series of protests against the inheritance tax laws introduced by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The protests began during the first week of June; becoming more organized and growing to hundreds of people on 8 June 2015. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians protested throughout Ecuador against President Correa and the controversial inheritance tax laws he introduced. The opposition and demonstrators protested stating that Correa wanted to follow "the same path as Venezuela’s government", creating a "criminal war of classes" while President Correa stated that the protests were aimed at destabilizing the government and such measures were for combatting inequality.
Throughout his presidency, Correa has been a controversial figure. Correa describes himself as an advocate of "socialism of the 21st century", a term referring to a form of democratic socialism previously used by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. though he has also been described Correa as "a left-wing populist". Political science scholars George Philip and Francisco Panizza also claimed that like his allies Morales and Chávez, Correa should be categorized as a populist, because he appealed "directly to the people against their countries' political and economic order, divided the social field into antagonistic camps and promised redistribution and recognition in a newly founded political order."
The Washington Post characterized Correa's ideological approach as having contradictions however, and compared him to other pink tide presidents such as Bolivia's Evo Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. Though Correa, an economist, did not attack Ecuador's private sector like Chávez and Ecuador's socioeconomic environment flourished with decreased poverty, he did follow Chávez's example of filling the Supreme Court of Ecuador with his allies and attempted to silence critics. Such actions have resulted in Correa being accused of authoritarianism, nepotism, attacking dissidents and curtailing freedom of speech.
Though Correa had brought stability to the poor who supported him, he combatted with other social groups such as the media, the Catholic Church, bankers and indigenous groups, saying that those who protested against him were part of "a wealthy oligarchy", a similar approach to what his ally Nicolás Maduro did to those who opposed him.
Following years of heavy revenues from high oil prices that Correa experienced during his eight years as president, Ecuador experienced a 50% reduction in oil revenues. The government then cut its 2015 fiscal budget by 4% and initiated controversial economic measures that affected most Ecuadorians; both the middle class and the poor. In March 2015 when constitutional changes were proposed to allow the re-election of the president and government officials indefinitely while other labor and land ownership rules were submitted, protests numbered in thousands occurred in Quito that were organized by indigenous communities, unions and students. In June 2015, when the government proposed bills to tax inheritances up to 77.5% and a 75% tax on real estate capital gains to counter loss in oil revenue, protests in Ecuador became widespread, with protesters demanding Correa out and compared actions by the government to that of the Venezuelan government. According to economists, the proposed policies would damage Ecuador's economy and population since 95% of businesses are family owned.
Near the headquarters of Correa's party, Alianza País, about 1,000 people, both opposition and pro-government demonstrated with 100 police on standby.
Thousands of protesters wearing black in "mourning" demonstrated in the capital city of Quito for the second time in a week. Government supporters confronted the opposition protesters leading their own chants under an Alianza País banner. In other parts of the city, opposition and pro-government groups clashed.
Guillermo Lasso led a march to the National Assembly of Ecuador to demand the permanent withdrawal of the proposed taxes instead of a temporary shelving of the legislations. The Ecuadorian government stated that the leaders of the protests held the following day would be responsible for any "vandalism".
Workers and trade unionists, mainly from the Frente Unitario de los Trabajadores (FUT), demonstrated in Quito denouncing Correa's policies, calling them "anti-popular" and were planning a national strike. Mesías Tatamuez, leader of FUT stated that the protests were not related to those concerned about taxes and that the protests were not aimed at the "destabilization" of the Ecuadorian government as President Correa had stated. The workers protests involved the sweeping of streets to represent the "cleansing" of corruption from the Ecuadorian and the burning of an Alianza País flag.
In Guayaquil, Correa's birthplace, Mayor Jaime Nebot invited demonstrators of all ages to participate with about 400,000 people, or about 20% of the city's population participating. The demonstrators gathered in light blue and white colors of Guayaquil's flag with Nebot stating that he was not protesting against Correa but the "totalitarian system" he said Correa wanted to "impose". Public buildings near the march were decorated by the Ecuadorian government with the Central Bank office building having a banner denouncing the accumulation of wealth and while Nebot was speaking, the volume of the building's loudspeakers that was sending pro-government messages was turned higher.
In Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and other cities, thousands protested against Correa days before Pope Francis' visit to the country. The Ecuadorian government held a countering rally at the president's palace.
Hundreds protested outside of the Alianza País headquarters protesting against the taxes along with what they called autocratic and corrupt actions performed by the Ecuadorian government. The protesters waited for Pope Francis to complete his visit to Ecuador before protesting again.
CONAIE recently announced it is preparing for a national “uprising” for 10 August, and said they will join the national strike planned for 13 August organized by trade unionists and opposition leaders.
According to Cedatos-Gallup International polls from six major cities in Ecuador between 10 and 11 June, 70% of Ecuadorians disapprove of the real estate tax and 72% disapprove of the inheritance tax. Cedatos also observed President Correa's popularity drop from around 60% in recent years to 42% in 2015.
While protesters were demonstrating in Quito and Guayaquil, some internet users were unable to connect to a network with explanations ranging from network over-saturation to the use of signal jammers by the Ecuadorian government. The use of peer-to-peer applications increased during the protests due to the network problems with Opposition Senator Andres Paez recommending the use of the FireChat app. The media also reported Denial-of-service attacks and the creation of fake media accounts to falsify reports. It has also been reported that the Ecuadorian government uses "troll centers" to attack their opposition.
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