Ecuador and Chile Fight for Justice

Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno, 2015

Owen McEwen/Guest Columnist

Unlike a recent PantherNOW opinion column claims, the political unrest in Ecuador and Chile are not byproducts of a Cuban and Venezuelan regime of regional “communist” takeover. 

In Ecuador, to comply with an International Monetary Fund loan, President Lenin Moreno cut oil subsidies that had developed over a 40-year period, doubling the price of diesel and increasing the price of petrol by 30%. Its most pernicious effects were in the rural working population of Ecuador: almost every agricultural vehicle, as well as buses which transport workers into Quito and other urban areas, run on diesel. 

The Moreno administration also enacted sweeping budget reduction policies, one of which required those who work in the public sector to donate an entire day’s wage to the government each month. 

The column then claims that the arrest of 17 Venezuelan nationals at Ecuador’s International Airport is evidence of Maduro’s meddling in Ecuadorian politics. However, each of the 17 Venezuelans were released from custody due to a lack of evidence and were detained by Ecuadorian authorities because they were displaying “unusual attitudes.”

The column also says that the protests in Ecuador – which were led by indigenous leaders who demanded a dialogue between the Moreno administration and the people – were undemocratic. 

During the televised negotiations between representatives of the two groups, both sides praised the other’s willingness and openness to talk. They spawned a committee in which representatives will develop a package of measures to erase the budget deficits and reduce government spending. Hardly sounds like a violent Venezuelan coup. 

Not long after the Chilean government announced a 4% fare increase to the public metro system in Santiago (which brought the fare to 1/6 the average monthly wage), students and workers engaged in mass fare evasions at metro stations. 

This evoked a violent response from the government: riot gear clad military police fired both rubber bullets and live ammunition at protesters, reportedly killing 19 and wounding hundreds. 140 people suffered traumatic eye injuries since protests began on Oct. 18, in which 26 permanently lost vision in at least one eye. 

Videos also surfaced of unarmed protestors being executed as they were held captive by military forces, sometimes with their bodies being dragged from the street into the dark alleyways of Santiago. 

Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights reported a total of 319 official complaints against carabineros for torture and cruel treatment, 45% of which are from the most recent protests. 

The fact that someone can delegitimize protestors and activists in the face of them being murdered, beaten and tortured is more of an affront to democracy and self-expression than any ideology ever will be.

Owen McEwen is a junior international relations major at Florida International University.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Featured photo from ITU Pictures on Flickr.

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