As opponents of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa made calls on social media for a military coup, a caravan of vehicles by right-wing protestors descended on the highway leading to Quito's international airport on June 14 in a bid to block Correa from being able to safely return to the country.
Social media posts called on those opposed to Correa's democratically-elected government to flood the highway and try to take the airport. Pro-opposition newspaper El Comercio said more than 200 cars participated in the convoy.
Also, a widely shared image calling for protests in front of the offices of the ruling PAIS Alliance said: “A call to the armed forces of Ecuador, be vigilant to defend peace, democracy, the homeland, liberty, and justice for Ecuadorean people.”
However, according to the 2008 Ecuadorean Constitution, the country’s armed forces are no longer responsible for maintaining constitutional order. Instead their role is described in Article 158 as: “The fundamental mission of the Armed Forces is the defense of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Speaking on his weekly TV program on June 13, Correa said of often-violent opposition protestsoutside the PAIS Alliance headquarters were part of a coup attempt by wealthy elites opposed to his government's pro-poor measures.
Correa, who was re-elected in 2013 in a landslide with 57% of the vote, said the opposition had everything ready for their plot against the government, and they had the money and logistics prepared. The Ecuadorean leader called on Ecuador's people to remain strong and firm in light of the right-wing attacks. “They wanted to wear us down by 2016 … but here, nobody gets tired, we’re stronger than ever,” he said.
Since June 8, privileged sectors in the country, led by right-wing politicians, have been protesting a set of government bills which look to raise the inheritance and capital gains taxes on the top 2% of Ecuadoreans.
Although the protests were initially against citizens having to pay a very small tax on large inheritances, the right-wing protesters are now openly calling for the ousting of the elected government.
The protests have been countered by government supporters, who have outnumbered the opposition protestors but have also been met with violence from the right-wing demonstrators. Large numbers of police have been deployed each night to prevent violence or injuries.
The June 14 protest convoy along the Ruta Viva highway forms part of what opposition activists billed as Black Sunday, where they called on Ecuadoreans to wear black and wave black flags. However, there were few signs of the public embracing the call-out.
The Ruta Viva, one of the Correa government’s feature infrastructure projects, runs through the affluent Quito suburbs of Cumbaya and Tumbaco, home to many of the protesters. The highway facilitates travel between the capital, the suburbs and the new international airport also built under the Correa government.
More demonstrations have been called for the next week, with conservative legislator Andres Paez announcing actions in various cities on June 18. Supporters of the government are planning on holding their own rally on June 15 in front of the presidential palace.
[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]