Supporters of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa rallied Thursday in defense of his proposed tax reforms, the same day opposition-led protests were staged against them in the capital, Quito.
Thousands of government supporters gathers in Independence Plaza in front of the presidential palace to demonstrate their support for the government in light of provocations from the country's right-wing opposition.
Several demonstrators told teleSUR that they came out to the rally not just because they back the proposed tax reforms but because they see the government as the driving force of a radical transformation in the country.
“We are here not only to defend the president but also this political process, which emerged from the popular classes,” said Alejandro Aguilera, a supporter of the Communist Party of Ecuador, which also backs the Correa government.
Meanwhile Cristina Cuello, who works for the state electricity company, said she and her colleagues came out “because we must continue with the efforts to redistribute wealth."
Quito was also witness to right-wing protests, though in contrast to previous opposition demonstrations it was held far from the pro-government rally, in an upscale part of the Ecuadorean capital.
Hundreds of people gathered around a giant Ecuadorean flag filling a block of Shyris Avenue, holding white balloons, black flags and chanting "Correa in jail."
Some also held banners calling on Correa to resign.
Protesters there told teleSUR that they opposed the government for failing to pursue a neoliberal agenda.
Manuel Meren, an administrative engineer protesting against the tax reform, said that "public services should not be funded by taxes but by generating more jobs."
Meren went on to demand that the government stop controlling the market. "We want free entrepreneurship," he said.
"I think Correa should get more inspiration from (Argentine President) Macri and fire many people in this country,” said Joaquin Arrieta.
President Correa made allusions to policies of Macri, which in three months has increased those living in poverty by one million, saying that the Ecuadorean government would never place the burden of the economic crisis on the poor.
Ernesto Nieto, who works as the undersecretary at National Secretariat for Higher Education, told teleSUR that Thursday's right-wing protests showed that those demonstrating against the tax reform were working in the interests of the opposition.
"The opposition demonstration defends the interests of the oligarchy not those of the people," said Nieto.
Unions, students, artisans, associations of farmers, Indigenous people and Afro-descendents helped organize the pro-reform rally under the slogan, “They shall not pass."
Ecuador has suffered from the global drop in the price of oil, an important export for the small South American country. To help cushion the effects on the state budget, Correa has introduced taxes on inheritance, capital gains, alcohol and tobacco, among other things.
The opposition has rallied parts of the middle class, bolstered by previous reforms, against these taxes. Ecuadorians will also be charged a 5 percent tax on funds exceeding three minimum monthly wages when they leave the country.
Protesters stand in support of the tax reform. | Photo: teleSUR
During his speech, Correa charged that there was "a new Plan Condor at work, where they try to take down progressive leaders in Latin America," referring to a plan executed by repressive, right-wing regimes supported by the U.S. to eliminate left-wing activists and politicians throughout Latin America in the 1970s.
"All steps we take will be questioned by the opposition. We’re in an elections year and it spurs more demonstrations,” said Correa’s advisor, Carlos Baca Mancheno. “They have been repeating their speech of a serious crisis, a bad economic administration, etc.”