Opposition to the government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador held protests in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil on Thursday.
teleSUR reporters witnessed many upper-class protesters at the demonstration. Some waved black flags and others draped the national flag around their shoulders. They chanted “Out, Correa, Out!” and held placards labeling the democratically elected and popular president a “dictator.”
Others held placards demanding freedom to protest, despite no laws barring them from protesting. The opposition has held protests for the last few weeks, sometimes on a daily basis, and under the protection of security forces.
Further, opposition protesters in Quito held placards quoting Martin Luther King, and wearing Guy Fawkes masks.
UPDATE: Opposition supporters have marched from the business district of Quito to the historic center where the presidential palace is located. Reports are that they have broken the police barricade between their march, and where government supporters are protecting the palace.
Translation: Opposition march in the center of Quito advancing towards the Carondelet (presidential palace). Police barricade broken.
— Plan V (@revistaPlanV) June 26, 2015
Translation: Hundreds of government supporters currently in Plaza Grande (where the palace is).
¡Gracias! Miles reunidos en Plaza Grande cuando supieron que los de luto iban a Carondelet. Somos pacíficos, pero defenderemos la Revolución— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) June 26, 2015
Translation: Thank you, thousands rallying in Grande square when they found out that the mourning ones (opposition) were on their way to Carondelet. We are peaceful, but we will defend the revolution.
Much of the coverage of the protests in Ecuador was tweeted out in English, which may have been aimed more at an international audience than a local one.
Meanwhile, President Correa on Thursday called again on the opposition to debate the controversial inheritance bill “without tricks.” The bill changes inheritance tax rules to target large transfers of wealth between family members. It distinguishes between the tax rate paid on inheritances to the children of those leaving the inheritance and more distant relatives. The minimum rate remains at 2.5 percent for inheritances above US$35,400. The maximum rate for sums above US$849,600 would be 47.5 percent for the children of those leaving the inheritance while others would pay 77.5 percent.
Correa singled out opposition politician Jaime Nebot, who has been calling the protests against the government, as a clear example of the progress the country has made with respect to the collection of taxes.
In a televised dialogue with citizens, the president observed that in 2006, before the arrival of the Correa government to power, Nebot paid just US$1,994 in income taxes but by 2014 he was paying US$66,593, according to figures from the government revenue agency.
On the inequality which exists in Ecuador, economist Jorge Salgado told teleSUR English’s correspondent Liz Scherffius, "This means that if we want to break with these historical conditions, and inacceptable structural issues of our country, we need to think in redistributive measures. Now it is evident that this needs to be part of a consensus."
Thursday’s protests come as Correa temporarily withdrew the inheritance bill following the opposition protests, calling for a peaceful national debate. However he claims the opposition groups want to oust him from power rather than debate the bills they claim to be protesting. Some of Thursday’s protesters seemed to confirm that with chants demanding the president leave.
The results of the nation-wide debate will be evaluated on September 15, and it will then be determined how they will be modified and if they will be resubmitted to the National Assembly. Instead of participating in the national debate, which is taking place in neighborhoods and in forums across the country, the opposition is continuing to protest in the streets, demanding that the bills are discarded and for a change of government.
"This great oligarchy we have is small in numbers, but it is powerful in terms of the economy. They are the ones that do not want to debate. They want a different president who will be loyal to their interests,” political analyst Edgar Alan Garcia told teleSUR English.