Inflation in Ecuador has gone
through the roof (48% in 1998, and 100% predicted
for 2000). Prices of food, housing, and goods have
soared, while wages have stagnated, even for skilled
professionals. The poor have become more destitute
and the middle class is disappearing:
- Buying power of the minimum wage
(US$40 per month) has dropped 75% in 5 years.
- Today the starting wage of a doctor
working for the government is only $56 a month.
- Half the population is un- or under-employed.
Dollarization of local currency.
In an attempt to control runaway inflation and the
threatened bankruptcy of the corrupt banking system,
this year (2000) the Ecuadorean government converted
the national currency from "sucres" to US dollars.
Nevertheless, rampant inflation continues. People
must pay increasingly large amounts for basic necessities.
This has led to country-wide protests and revolt.
Increase in crime. As in Mexico
and other countries that have also experienced falling
wages, unemployment, and cut-backs in public services,
Ecuador is now experiencing a pandemic of crime
and violence. Street children, homeless people,
prostitutes, and beggars have proliferated, as has
domestic violence. Wealthier homes often have armed
guards with sub-machine guns stationed outside their
prison-like walls. Fear of car-theft limits the
mode of travel in certain areas.
Indigenous uprising in Ecuador,
January 2000: Achievements and failures
In response to soaring prices, frozen
wages, privatization, user-fees for health and education,
and "dollarization," in January 2000 the indigenous
peoples (Indians) of Ecuador launched a nation-wide
revolt demanding a new, more pro-people government.
Business and transportation ground to a halt as
thousands of people from every tribal group filled
the streets and blocked highways with logs, boulders,
and themselves. Then, the Ecuadorean Army joined
the insurrection, led by junior officers. Within
3 days the nation's president was ousted and the
potential existed for a new more popular government.
Alas, however, the uprising took place
without adequate plans for a workable popular alternative.
In the confusion after the overthrow, top generals
in the army betrayed the indigenous front and restored
to power the same corrupt politicians who favor
the globalized market at the expense of the poor.
One reason that the insurrection brought
little change (and if anything a more deeply entrenched
far-right power structure) was that indigenous organizations
made little effort to seek solidarity with organized
labor or the nation�s powerful student and teacher
Another reason the January uprising
brought little change was that the US government
was quick to threaten Ecuador with trade sanctions
(refusal to buy crude oil), and to halt international
loans (including those from the World Bank) if the
neoliberal oligarchy were dismantled.
In the last analysis, little was gained
through the indigenous revolt, except for the lessons
1. A well-organized peaceful mass
uprising can topple an inequitable government (more
effectively than corrupted national elections)
2) A practical plan for a more equitable
and democratic alternative government must be well
formulated before the uprising commences, and,
3) Given the power of today's globalized
economy, any national struggle based on human needs
faces enormous odds. Therefore, people's movements
and organizations around the world must come together
in the struggle for fairer, healthier, more democratic
decision-making. This is the goal of the forthcoming
Health Assembly in Bangladesh this December.