Ecuador’s ‘Drone Revolution’ Meets IMF Austerities

Protesters are rising up against the neoliberal economic policies of President Lenin Moreno, reports Denis Rogatyuk.

By Denis Rogatyuk
The Grayzone

“Se acabó la zanganería” — “The zanganería is over.”

With these words, uttered on Oct. 4, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel-and-petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population.

Zángano, the Spanish word for a male honey bee, otherwise known as a drone, is a slang term traditionally used by rich, elite parts of society to refer to workers and the poor, whom they denigrate as “mindless” or “uneducated.”

The use of the term by Moreno, a close ally of Washington, reflected the president’s resentful attitude toward ordinary Ecuadorians.

In short order, Moreno’s opponents transformed the slang into a buzzword . They began using it with pride about their movement, dubbing it, “la revolución de los zánganos,” or the revolution of the drones.

The bee has become a symbol of their revolt.

Other Protections Cut

The decision to cut the government’s decades-old fuel subsidies was just one element in a package of neoliberal economic reforms presented by the Moreno government on Oct. 1. The program was part of a bid to satisfy the demands of the International Monetary Fund.

This October, the reform package set off an explosion of mass protests across the nation.

Moreno claimed the drastic new economic measures were necessary to reduce “wasteful” public spending and balance the government’s budget.

The most controversial measure of all has been the elimination of the petrol subsidies that had been in place since the 1970s. This removal led to a staggering 123 percent rise in the price of diesel, with similar increases in the price of other fuels.

The package also introduced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees, and initiated plans to privatize pensions and removed workplace security and job security safeguards.

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State of Emergency

When he announced the austerity package, Moreno sensed that large protests against his government were inevitable. So, he declared a national “state of emergency,” and immediately deployed both the police and the military against protesters in the capital of Quito and other areas around the country.

The state of emergency has been widely condemned as unconstitutional. Leaders of the opposition have argued that it is a desperate measure to try to prevent the kind of mass-scale uprising that overthrew Ecuador’s neoliberal governments of Jamil Mahuad in 2000 and Lucio Gutiérez in 2005.

Various sectors of society have mobilized in response. Among the most visible political forces leading the demonstrations have been the Citizens’ Revolution Movement of Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s former leftist president. They have been joined by a number of social and trade union organizations, such as the United Workers’ Front, the indigenous organization CONAIE, and the Popular Front political party.

The transport workers’ unions and the taxi drivers’ associations also announced strikes on Oct. 3, bringing major cities including Quito and Cuenca to a halt. Ecuador’s northern Pichincha province emerged as the epicenter of popular struggle. More than 10,000 people took part in the strike and the protests.

Although the transport workers suspended the strike on Oct. 5, the demonstrations by other organizations, particularly the indigenous, have shown no signs of stopping.

Hundreds of Ecuadorians from the largely indigenous commmunity of Huaycopungo embarked on a long march to Quito in protest.


Violent Crackdown

State security forces have responded viciously, violently cracking down on the protests.

Videos have circulated on social media showing unarmed demonstrators lying on the ground after being shot by police:

Another viral video shows a police officer running over an incapacitated demonstrator with his motorcycle:

View this post on Instagram

Moreno enfrenta fuertes manifestaciones en todo el país, luego de anunciar el pasado martes una serie de medidas y reformas económicas, que sus detractores han denominado como el "paquetazo". Las principales manifestaciones callejeras fueron convocadas por el sector transporte, con el que, presuntamente, la administración de Moreno estaba en conversaciones. Este gremio rechaza una de las medidas principales: la eliminación del subsidio estatal a la gasolina extra y ecopaís, además del diésel; y su consiguiente aumento de precio desde este mismo 3 de octubre. El presidente de Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, dijo este jueves que su Gobierno ha "agotado el mecanismo de diálogo" con los gremios del país, entre ellos el de transporte, que este jueves convocó un paro nacional en contra de las medidas económicas que anunciadas por el Ejecutivo el pasado martes. El mandatario se trasladó a la ciudad de Guayaquil, en la costa del país suramericano. Desde ahí, aseguró que "ha habido escasa seriedad" con quienes buscaban dialogar porque considera que los gremios pretenden "desestabilizar al Gobierno democrática y legalmente constituido". "¡Mejor acójanse a las consecuencias!. . ¿De estas consecuencias hablaba Lenin Moreno?. #LeninMoreno #Represion #DerechosHumanos #Ecuador #fueraleninfuera #eeuu?? #FMI #PatioTraseroYankee #RepublicaRoja

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Social media has been full of examples of police brutality:

Police have attacked journalists and videographers documenting the repression:

But the repression has not been able to quell the uprising.

In Quito, the protests were so massive that the police were forced to retreat:

Between Oct. 2 and 6, more than 20 demonstrators were injured across the country, and more than 350 protesters were arrested.

In the city of Caymabe, the police reportedly shot protesters with live ammunition.

Poverty and Inequality

Moreno’s austerity program has only fanned the popular discontent that has been spreading across the country since he took a decided turn to the right and implemented the IMF’s agenda. Moreno has consistently attempted to discredit former President Rafael Correa’s popular economic strategy of combining social spending with public investment in infrastructure and energy projects while diversifying the economy, moving away from oil by developing a new system of production.

In contrast, Moreno’s government has pursued an IMF-mandated package of reforms that has mandated the dismissal of thousands of public-sector employees, reduced the size of the public sector, initiated privatization of parts of the public sector (particularly the public banking services), and slashed education and healthcare spending.

As a result, poverty and inequality have risen  under Moreno’s tenure. According to the official numbers, the level of structural poverty has increased from 23.1 percent in June 2017 to 25.5 percent in June 2019. Some economists have projected that structural poverty will reach 30 percent by the end of the year if the new economic measures are enacted.

Extreme poverty has also seen a rise from 8.4 percent to 9.5 percent during the same time period.

Moreover, the Gini coefficient, a measure of economic inequality, has increased from 0.462 in June 2017 to 0.478 in June 2019, demonstrating that Moreno’s policies of reducing social spending has principally benefited the rich.

Moreno’s Right-Wing Turn

While Moreno has proved himself a loyal steward of the IMF agenda, Ecuador has witnessed a steady breakdown of constitutional law. Moreno’s repressive turn has manifested itself on numerous fronts, from his turning over of WikiLeaks publisher and political refugee Julian Assange to the British authorities to his persecution and imprisonment of the former Vice President Jorge Glas on dubious charges to his continuous political witch hunt against Correa and other leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution, such as the former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño and former assembly member Sofia Espin.

The Moreno government has also censored several critical media outlets, making concerted efforts to silence discussion of the INA Papers corruption scandal and the discovery of secret off-shore bank accounts linked to his family.

This all came as Moreno dismantled democratic structures at home, such as dismissing the newly elected Council of Citizens’ Participation and Social Control (CPCCS), and dismantled international structures of regional integration, like withdrawing from UNASUR and OPEC.

The Citizens’ Revolution Movement (MRC) has legally challenged Moreno’s declaration of national emergency, noting that it lacks any specific parameters regarding proportionality, legality, temporality, territoriality and rationality — all of which are mandated by the constitution.

Esther Cuesta, a member of the national assembly of the Citizens’ Revolution Movement, explained her party’s position regarding both the new rebellion and the growing authoritarianism and repression by the Moreno government:

“Millions of Ecuadorians, whom we join as the Citizen’s Revolution Movement, reject the neoliberal economic measures, dictated by the IMF and imposed to the Ecuadorian people by Moreno’s government, mainly because they will impoverish the vast majority of the population: the middle class, the working class and the poor, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, to the detriment of the future of children and younger generations.”

Cuesta further explained the significance of the zánganos movement in the historic context of the Ecuadorian people’s struggle against neoliberalism:

“Since the paquetazo announcement, what started as a transportation strike, emerged as a growing social protest all over the country and from different sectors of the population. Ecuadorian people have memory. The adjustment policies applied in the country the 1980s and 1990s provoked massive unemployment, impoverishing of the population, and about 12 percent of the population emigrated.”

For his part, former President Correa has cheered on the protest movement, tweeting, “Yo también soy zángano” — “I am also a drone.”

Denis Rogatyuk is a Russian-Australian freelance writer, journalist and researcher. His articles, interviews and analysis have been published in a variety of media sources around the world including Jacobin, Le Vent Se Léve, Sputnik, Green Left Weekly, Links International Journal, Alborada and others.

This article is from The Grayzone.

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11 comments for “Ecuador’s ‘Drone Revolution’ Meets IMF Austerities

    October 11, 2019 at 06:55

    Thanks for this excellent summary of recent events in a country we rarely see much about, one that made it into the news of course in the terrible matter of Julian Assange.

  2. DC_rez
    October 9, 2019 at 13:16

    I have spent some time in Ecuador. A beautiful country with equally friendly people.
    I have witnessed a protest / dissent, it was not illegal under Correa. I visited twice while Correa was President, five years apart. The improvements were positive and noticeable.
    Moreno betrayed the citizens who voted for him.
    I was fortunate to be in Quito during a massive citywide celebration. I happened to be in a main square and Correa showed up to give a speech. The crowd went wild, they adored him.
    Damn dirty peasants would, right Ricardo.

  3. Hide Behind
    October 9, 2019 at 04:06

    The intent of IMF is to make a profit, and the top 20% who have already bankrupted THEIR nation by THEIR buisness and social injustices are the ones who seek IMF loans.
    Knowing it is THEY who will profit the most, with repayments coming off of populace backs.
    The terms of IMF loans are such that any nation accepting the loans agrees to allowing foreign financial and commercial interest to enter nation and also gives the IMF ability to participate in that nations political structures.
    Exploitation is name of game, wether by military force or economic force it is the way Eurocentrics control rest of world.
    Within every nation one can find groups who have no loyalty to nation and gladly join with IMF in exploitation of a nations weakness, for THEIR personal gain.

  4. Gary
    October 9, 2019 at 03:19

    Alan Ross: his description was accurate.

    This class warfare is inflamed through active measures, designed to artificially increase prices of oil and Nat gas. The unrest only benefits foreign producers of fossil fuels.

    The dialogue between you two misses this point: You are serving non-ecuadorian interests by spewing divisive rhetoric.

  5. October 8, 2019 at 11:55

    Viva Los Zanganos. Lenin Moreno should be imprisoned for each day that Assange is incarcerated.

  6. Jeff Harrison
    October 7, 2019 at 20:28

    It is amazing to me that here in the US, we hear all this crap about how the evil Chinese are enslaving all the counties that take part in the belt-and-road initiative where they do not have these kinds of problems and nothing about the countries that the US has subverted and which are now enslaved by the IMF which really does enslave peoples…..

    • AnneR
      October 8, 2019 at 08:12

      Ah yes, Jeff H. This morning, early, on that state-funded, state-controlled medium the BBC World Service, there was mucho of the usual anti-China propaganda – the Chinese abuse of the human rights of the Uighurs, the Chinese exploitation of Vanuatu – its sale of passports, its pressures on this poor nation in its region.

      All of course set in a context of absolute silence on the human rights abuses committed by the US, UK, IS against millions of peoples: Chagos Islanders? Palestinians? Libyans? Syrians? Afghanis? Iraqis? Venezuelans? Nicaraguans? Panamanians? The list could well go on. Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo? Black Sites? US treatment in its own prisons of its prisoners? Assange in Belmarsh?

      Never a whisper.

      As for the IMF… doesn’t it bring goodies to the populations of those countries indebted to it? Goodies like austerity? Poverty? Privatization of everything? Exploitation of any and all natural resources by foreign (US and UK) companies? And odd how often when the IMF comes calling in the developing countries, there are also mysteriously large numbers of deaths, often of the indigenous peoples….

  7. nwwoods
    October 7, 2019 at 18:26

    Frau Chrystia Freeland will be positively delighted at the suffering, if her enthusiasm for destroying the lives of the people of Venezuela is any indication

  8. Ricardo Segreda
    October 7, 2019 at 14:17

    As an actual Ecuadorian living in Ecuador I can only laugh at these first-world Marxists who feel qualified to weigh in on what is happening in Ecuador, even as they remain comfortably insulated from the disastrous economic policies of their hero, Rafael Correa, a grandiose socialist dictator who spent wildly on massive government boondoggles (the Unasur building, etc) all for the glory of his own ego, all the while criminalizing all forms of dissent.

    • Alan Ross
      October 8, 2019 at 08:34

      I guess you weren’t insulated from Correa’s policies. Did you get your plantation and servants taken away and still long for them? Seems like you are scared that once again the bees will take back their country from another US puppet.

      • ML
        October 10, 2019 at 02:18

        You are right on, Alan Ross. Ricardo doesn’t want to give up his 800 thread count sheets so that someone else might have shelter from the storm. Perish the thought. I’m always wary when some privileged prig starts spouting how much they despise socialist policies. What do they think the rich have received if not social welfare to enrich themselves?

Comments are closed.