• Violent anti-austerity protests bring Ecuador to a standstill for over a week

    21 October 2019

    After 11 days of anti-government protests, which paralyzed ground transportation across major cities in Ecuador, President Lenín Moreno and the indigenous leaders have come to an agreement on October 13.

    Protesters have agreed to remove highway blockades and end violent protests in which at least seven people were killed and more than 1,000 injured. The threat to dismantle fuel subsidies sparked nationwide protests which blocked several highways, impeded access to the Port of Guayaquil, closed main entrances into the capital, and cut the country’s oil production in half.

    Logistical disruptions throughout the country

    Over the course of the protest, major roadblocks and demonstrations were reported in the cities of Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, and Santo Domingo, as well as throughout the northern provinces of Esmeraldas and Carchi. Using burning tires and wood, protesters first blocked access to crucial points and caused partial road closure in the north and south of the city as well as in some eastern areas. The Alóag – Santo Domingo (E 20) highway, which links the capital with the coastal area, was blocked. Roads such as Guayllabamba – Cayambe (E 28B), Calacali – La Independencia (E 28) and several that lead to the Amazon region were also blocked.

    Retaliatory action between the police and protestors led to arrests and violent clashes throughout Quito. In response to the escalating demonstrations, President Moreno declared a nationwide state of exception on October 4 which suspended some civil liberties. These included the freedom of movement, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of information.

    On October 9, the Municipal Transit Authority in Guayaquil closed the Unidad Nacional Bridge in Guayaquil which links the city to the towns of Duran, Samborondón, and La Puntilla. All ground transportation connections with major cities were cut as well as access roads to the Port of Guayaquil. In the province of Guayas, the El Empalme – Balzar (E 48), El Triunfo – Dos Bocas (I 47), Naranjito – Bucay (E 488), Naranjal – Puerto Inca (E 25), and Bucay – Pallatanga – Riobamba (E 487) highways were closed.

    Force majeure on crude oil

    On October 9, state oil company Petroecuador declared force majeure on crude oil export following protests that halted operations at its Trans-Ecuadorean Pipeline System (SOTE). According to the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, SOTE stopped operations due to the low delivery of crude oil following the suspension of operations at oil fields operated by Petroamazonas EP.

    Petroecuador officials stated that anti-government protests had cost the company USD 3.4 million (EUR 3.05 million) per day since October 3. Between October 7 and October 13, Ecuador lost 1.5 million barrels of crude oil production. Petroecuador represents a large part of the country’s economy, with its crude oil mainly being exported to refineries in California and Washington states.

    On October 13, protestors agreed to remove the road blockades as President Moreno promised to withdraw a disputed Decree 883 from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed program that included cuts in fuel subsidies aimed at reducing the country’s debt and accumulating growth capital. Since then, road disruptions have gradually waned and movement across highways was being restored. Following the announcement of the agreement, protestors filled the streets to celebrate.

    As of October 20, Petroecuador has resumed crude oil exports. Customers are advised to monitor developments as operations gradually return to normal.

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