Seven Latin American Nations Accuse Venezuela of Instigating Ecuador Riots

Demonstrators clash with riot police near the national assembly in Quito on October 8, 2019 following days of protests against the sharp rise in fuel prices sparked by authorities' decision to scrap subsidies. - Thousands of demonstrators converged on the Ecuadoran capital Quito on Tuesday as intensifying protests against soaring …
MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images

Seven Latin American nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) issued statements supporting Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno in passing conservative economic reforms and accusing Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro of helping instigate riots against Moreno.

Ecuador has been engulfed in riots — particularly in Quito, the capital, and Guayaquil, the economic center — since last week, when Moreno announced that he would end a government subsidy artificially deflating gas prices while also exiting the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC), therefore allowing greater oil production and driving down prices organically.

The oil production changes were part of a larger economic package to help kick-start the economy agreed to with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for a $4.2 billion loan.

The response to Moreno’s reforms have been violent riots throughout the nation’s cities, first manifested as a transportation workers’ strike, then as an indigenous people’s rebellion against Moreno. The indigenous groups allegedly organizing the riots have not offered an explanation for how the economic boost to the country specifically hurt indigenous peoples, but they have called for a march onto Quito and forced Moreno to move the government temporarily to Guayaquil on Tuesday.

Moreno said on a broadcast Tuesday that he believed his predecessor, authoritarian socialist Rafael Correa, and Maduro were behind the “destabilization” of his country.

Correa is currently a fugitive in Belgium, his wife’s home country, after an Ecuadorian judge issued an arrest order on charges of having abducted a political dissident. Correa also faces significant questions regarding lucrative oil deals with China that Moreno claimed had left Ecuador, an oil-rich nation, destitute.

Correa is a television host on Russia’s RT network.

Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru all published a joint statement Wednesday supporting Moreno and condemning Maduro.

The governments said they “manifest their sound rejection against all destabilizing attempts against legitimately constituted democratic regimes and express their firm support for the actions taken by President Lenín Moreno.”

“We also reject all actions intended to destabilize our democracies on the part of the Nicolás Maduro regime and those who seek to extend the influence of his nefarious government project to the democratic countries of the region,” the statement added.

The OAS issued a similar statement of support to Moreno without condemning Maduro.

“Freedom of expression and peaceful protest are fundamental rights protected by Inter-American regulations … However, it is indefensible that some actors use them as a right to violence, looting, and vandalism,” the statement read. “The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS) strongly condemns the acts of violence recorded in recent days in Quito. The kidnapping of police and military personnel is totally unacceptable, as is the destruction and looting of public goods, the burning of patrol cars and attacks on ambulances.”

Moreno was the first to accuse Maduro of aiding the rioters, who have, as the OAS noted, also abducted police officers and soldiers attempting to enforce the current state of emergency Moreno invoked to quell the protests.

Speaking on a national broadcast Monday, Moreno called the riots an attempt at a coup d’etat and linked Maduro to the leftist organizations conducting them.

“Maduro the satrap has activated, along with Correa, a destabilization plan,” Moreno said. “They are the corrupt ones who have felt the steps of justice getting nearer so that they have to be held accountable. They are the ones behind this attempted coup d’etat.”

Moreno insisted that the riots – which have featured lootings, business vandalism, arson, and violence against police – were “not a manifestation of discontent. The looting, the vandalism, and the violence show that this is an attempt to break the democratic order.”

“The most violent ones are foreign individuals, paid and organized,” he alleged. Moreno also claimed he had intelligence that Correa had recently visited Venezuela to meet with senior leaders there.

Maduro responded on state-sponsored television by dismissing Moreno’s allegations as being “outside of relaity” and part of a conspiracy to “privatize everything.”

“Lenín is brave when it comes to taking social benefits from people, brave in handing over his country, to hand it over to the International Monetary Fund,” Maduro alleged, according to the radical leftist propaganda outlet Telesur, which branded Moreno “vile.”

Correa’s response was to immediately demand a special presidential election and hint that he might run in it, despite having been term-limited off the ballot during the past round of elections and endorsing Moreno.

“I made a mistake with Moreno, the biggest scammer of our era,” Correa said.

“They have destroyed the country but we will rise, we will move forward we should all learn from this strong lesson … there was never a need for an aid package,” Correa claimed. “The price of oil never fell, there was no natural disaster. It’s all corruption and ineptitude.”

Correa’s allegation did not specify the need for a gasoline subsidy in the event that, as he said, there were no significant changes to the status quo.

Correa also appeared at the European Parliament on Wednesday, joking that it had relocated to Barquisimeto, a Venezuelan city, to mock Moreno’s claim he had recently visited the Maduro regime.

The Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio reported that the national economy has lost $120 million a day since the protests began as of Wednesday, a total of $720 million. One person, a protester, died after being hit by a vehicle in an accident; rioters blocked the ambulance attempting to reach him and he did not receive first aid care in time to save his life.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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