A struggle between indigenous organizations protesting IMF austerity
measures and the government paralyzed Ecuador for 10 days in early
Last year, Ecuador suffered nearly 100 percent inflation which,
combined with the dollarization of the economy, slashed Ecuadorians'
savings and purchasing power. The government began a process of
privatization, starting with the country's water supply. Meanwhile,
indigenous communities watched the ongoing exploitation of their
traditional lands for oil exploration and other types of resource
In December, President Gustavo Noboa implemented IMF- recommended
austerity measures to reduce inflation and debt. The government
raised bus fares (the main form of transportation for most Ecuadorians)
by 75 percent and increased the price of gasoline by 25 percent.
In response, the three main indigenous organizations in Ecuador--Conaie,
Fenocin and Feine--forged an alliance and mobilized tens of thousands
of protesters. They demanded a repeal of the price increases, the
implementation of a national currency, investment in social services,
the dismantling of the agreement between Ecuador and the IMF, and
autonomy for indigenous communities. They also blockaded highways
throughout the country, causing shortages and skyrocketing prices.
The blockades became a flashpoint between protesters and the military.
As the uprising escalated, students, environmentalists, intellectuals
and artists joined in. Quito residents brought food, medicine and
clothing to the thousands camped at Catholic-run Salesiana University.
On January 30, the government arrested the main leaders of the
indigenous movement, charging them with subversion. But due to intense
public pressure, they were released from prison two days later and
negotiations were scheduled. A first attempt at negotiations failed
when the government rejected the indigenous groups' request to meet
directly with Noboa. The president then declared a state of emergency.
Protesters began a hunger strike and confrontations with the police
became more violent.