Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Lenín Moreno in Crisis

Protests against Lenín Moreno's austerity measures are intensifying, to the point that Moreno actually moved the capital from Quito to Guayaquil.

Of course, it's all playing out across Twitter. Just as Martín Vizvarra had recently done in Peru, Moreno tweeted a picture of himself with the military leadership.  Then he retweeted Juan Guaidó's claim that Nicolás Maduro was responsible. Meanwhile, Rafael Correa is going berserk, calling Moreno a dictator, retweeting various videos of protesters confronting police, and telling him to resign.

Moreno called the protests a coup, and indeed Ecuador has a long history of them. It's worth remembering that Rafael Correa's extended time in office through elections is the exception in Ecuador's political history. In 2000, CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, which is now leading the protests) was central in bringing down Jamil Mahuad. A lot has been written on CONAIE's political activism. I don't know if this is a coup push, but if CONAIE's involved it means it's well-organized. It has called for a national strike tomorrow.

It's also worth remembering that cutting fuel subsidies is dangerous in general. In 2011, Evo Morales tried it and backed off immediately because of protests (the so-called gasolinazo). Among other things, messing around with propane played an important role in protests that ousted Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in 2003. Mauricio Macri faced protests last year as he started cutting back on subsidies. There are plenty of examples across Latin America.

And yet Moreno says they aren't coming back. It doesn't help him that the International Monetary Fund, which he courted, wrote approvingly of the measures:

The reforms announced yesterday by President Lenin Moreno aim to improve the resilience and sustainability of Ecuador’s economy and foster strong, and inclusive growth. The announcement included important measures to protect the poor and most vulnerable, as well as to generate jobs in a more competitive economy.
The optics aren't good for him, but he figures that with the military's support he can wait them out.


shah8 2:39 AM  

It doesn't feel like the military units on the ground are all that supportive of Moreno.

My take is that these protests are essentially about broad dissatisfication with Moreno's efforts to adjust Ecuador to a more hardline Global North attitude. People have different issues...the US base on Ecuador's islands, the oil companies operating on tribal lands, etc, etc, and they're all merging on to the loss of fuel subsidies because that's the largest and safest umbrella issue for discontent.

For my part, just waiting for Brazil to explode. Only a matter of time.

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