For International Women's Day, the government of Ecuador organized a march to remember the thousands of women who were affected by the banking crisis in 1999, and reaffirm its support for social justice in the country.
About ten thousand people joined the march, which left from the Arbolito Park in northern Quito and continued through the steep streets of the city's historic center, to finish off at the Santo Domingo Plaza.
President Rafael Correa had called on citizens to march together and remember the devastating economic crisis that the country lived due to the corruption of the major bankers and right-wing politicians 18 years ago, coincidentally on March 8 as well.
Guillermo Lasso, a conservative banker who is seeking the presidency of Ecuador, was singled out by these organizations for having a political responsibility in this event as finance minister at the time under then-president Jamil Mahuad.
The crowds called Lasso an accomplice to the banking crisis, referred to in Ecuador as the "banking holiday," which in Spanish is Feriado Bancario, which cost the country more than US$8 billion.
The protesters also shouted "Lasso out," and "Banking holiday never again" as they held signs of how much money they had lost during the 1999 crisis. During the protest, the organizations held a paper doll of Lasso with his pockets full of money.
Women's organization, political parties and artists were part of the protest. teleSUR
Thousands lost all their savings during the bank crisis in Ecuador. teleSUR
Banker Guillermo Lasso is considered the responsible for the crisis 18 years ago, according to these organizations. teleSUR
Xavier Diaz was affected by the crisis, and saw his bank accounts frozen. At the time the country used Sucre as currency, and after the crisis the country became dollarized and the exchange rate caused millions to lose their lifelong savings.
"They left us without anything, and now they want to do it again. We won't allow it," said Diaz. "It was the worst. I was a migrant. I went to the U.S., and I saw how my people had to leave for Spain too."
During the presidency of Jamil Mahuad in 1999, the government froze all bank accounts with more than $500 for up to a year. The only option to retrieve money was a deposit certificate given by banks, in which users could only retrieve 50 to 60 percent of their money. The banks, including Banco Guayaquil owned by Lasso, could later exchange these certificates for the real value. In an effort to protect the banks and not the citizens, Mahuad’s government assumed the debt and drove two million Ecuadoreans and their families to leave the country.
Gabriela Rivadeneira, head of the country's National Assembly, led the march with several women from the legislative branch. Rivadeneira, from the ruling Alianza Pais party, called on Ecuadorean citizens to continue to mobilize and defend the future triumph of Lenin Moreno in the second round of elections on April 2.
For Erika Toala, a young woman from the Afro-descendant province of Esmeraldas, this march is necessary for women to fight for their rights.
"We are women who struggle, revolutionaries, so we demand respect and our place," said Toala.
"It's fair and necessary for women to be empowered and to know about their rights, and why not in the next years to have a woman as president of the republic," said Toala.
For Luis Quishpe, who was worked with social organizations to denounce how millions lost their money and had to flee the country, it's unbelievable that someone involved in the worst economic crisis in the country is in second place in polls for president. Lasso was second in the polls in the first round of presidential elections with 28 percent of the votes, behind leftist candidate Lenin Moreno.
"With no shame, they are seeking to reach the presidency, when they were the first ones that dragged us to disaster in Ecuador," said Quishpe. "And they want to come back, that's why we say 'Never again shall we return to the past.'"
Hundreds of social organizations from around the country met early in the morning. teleSUR
Head of the National Assembly Gabriela Rivadeneira and the rest of lawmakers of the legislative power. teleSUR
Supporters of the leftist presidential candidate Lenin Moreno. teleSUR
Quishpe said that during that time, as people lost their money, a few rich people became richer at the expense of the money that belongs to the poor.
"We are remembering those days when everyone cried when they had to leave the country and their family to live abroad," said Quishpe. "We've never had the opportunity to recuperate what they stole from us."
Quishpe also said that women in Ecuador have achieved equality, particularly in the last ten years since the government of Rafael Correa took office.
"Our respect for the Ecuadorean women and every woman in the world and for equality should be present in every aspect of our lives," said Quishpe.