On 1 March, Ecuador’s economy and finance minister, together with the central bank manager, submitted a letter of intent to the IMF requesting $4.2 billion in support via a three-year Extended Fund Facility agreement. The resulting IMF loan agreement structurally undermines labour protections for the most vulnerable workers in Ecuador.
On October 2nd, the government of Ecuador announced a series of reforms that aim to ‘improve the resilience and sustainability of Ecuador’s economy’. According to a statement by the IMF this includes ‘measures to protect the poor and most vulnerable’. In reality, it will mean austerity and more people going into poverty. The immediate spark to the mass protests was the removal of subsidies on fuel that affects not only transport costs but drives up food prices. Cuts in public spending were also announced, with mass public-sector lay-offs planned and an assault on public-sector workers’s conditions that includes halving holiday entitlement to just 15 days per year from the 30 days given.
The IMF expects the following from the government: commitments adopted under the theme of “adjustment of the public wage bill,” in which Ecuador is advised to address a public wage restriction through dismissal of public sector employees with temporary contracts and to “harmonize the wages of newly hired public employees with those in the private sector, which are currently generally lower than public sector wages.” The Article IV details the way in which the reduction would be made with the aim of “moderating the increase in labour costs in the private sector,” reducing the public wage bill and through the reduction of the minimum wage in the private sector. Annex IV stipulates that the reduction could be made by revising the payment of contingency funds – a benefit to which all salaried workers are entitled – or by reducing the percentage of profit-sharing that Ecuadorian law provides to workers in the private sector.
The MSF extends solidarity to the student movement that right now is fighting in Ecuador against the IMF and the government. The student movement has been key in the unfolding of events that have taken place. The students have played a large role the protests. Universities have been a safe keep for the children of protesters who live outside the capital. Medical students have volunteered, taking care of the many wounded and making sure the most vulnerable are looked after. The students as well as the indigenous groups protesting do not care for any dialogue with the government for such dialogues will end up being empty promises. The protests have created a seabed for fundamental change in Ecuador, they no longer cry out against the cut of subsidies and the loan with the IMF but demand fundamental real change against capitalist system. ‘Out with Neoliberalism!’ is one of the chants throughout the protests.
The Ecuadorian masses have a rich history of revolutionary insurrections. Just at the turn of the century after neoliberal assaults on living standards created such political unrest that seven presidents came and went in just 10 years. This time will not be any different.
We defend democracy but not capitalist democracy. It is precisely this democracy that has allowed Moreno to act in the way he wanted. He has done nothing illegal. He has simply used the system to work for him and exposed its true oppressive nature as a result. As Marxists, we fight for genuine workers democracy.
This can only be done based on a mass movement of students and workers that can propel change. We need a General Election now! But we can’t rely on parliamentary manoeuvres to get this. The mass mobilisation of workers and youth on the streets is happening right now. The right leadership needs to put itself at the head of any movement, take a lead, and maintain an independent class position. No alliances with the bourgeoisie or the right wing sectors. No appeals to the government or the courts. This fight is the most important fight of our lives. To break with capitalism and see the socialist transformation of society.
These are urgent issues that we must take up. On the basis of a clear socialist programme, the revolutionary potential of the youth can be channelled into a movement capable of transforming society.
Above all, it provides us with the chance to fight for a socialist government – one that will engage with a new generation of young people who are desperate for an alternative to the misery of capitalism.