As part of a social uprising that has brought Ecuador to a virtual standstill, a growing number of protesters from environmental and human rights organizations have occupied the offices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to protest the IMF's role in Ecuador's current social crisis.
"We want to bring the real culprits to light," said Ivonne Yanez, one of the women occupying the IMF offices. "The IMF-imposed policies, carried out by the Ecuadorian government in exchange for more loans, have resulted in more than 50% of Ecuador's national budget going to pay off the foreign debt, have burdened the country with the highest rate of inflation in Latin America, the highest levels of corruption, the most advanced rate of deforestation and environmental contamination, and the worst example of maldistribution of wealth on the continent."
The IMF sit-in is occuring at the same time that the country's indigenous population, who represent more than 40% of the Ecuadorian people, have blockaded the nation's major highways. The blockades, which are entering their fourth day, are in protest against the government's economic policies, which have impoverished millions of Ecuadorians. The blockades have prevented the delivery of food and supplies to large portions of the country, resulting in shortages and skyrocketing prices.
The government's response to the protests has been harsh. In Quito alone, there have been 24 wounded from confrontations between police and protesters. There are currently between 5,000 and 8,000 indigenous activists camped out at the Catholic Salesian Politecnic University, which is hosting them, and reinforcements from the countryside are arriving daily. The police have prevented the indigenous activists from marching through the City of Quito, bombarding them with tear gas every time they try to march from the University.
On Tuesday, January 30, the government arrested the leader of the indigenous movement, Antonio Vargas, charging him with subversion and attempting to overthrow the government.
The protesters occupying the IMF offices in Quito are in support of the indigenous movement.
Quito, Ecuador, February 1, 2001
Letter sent to IMF
Delegation from the International Monetary Fund
CC: CONSEJO NACIONAL DE MODERNIZACION
You have arrived at a very opportune moment: the Ecuadorian Government and its Military High Command have warned that "all subversive agents who are responsible for fomenting destabilization in such a stable democracy will be arrested for disturbing the peace."
You have therefore arrived at the right moment, so that those threats can be applied, without delay, on the real and most important agents of national destablization, the destruction of the country, and social chaos and violence: YOU.
You, and the institution that you represent, are the ones who are primarily responsible for the social upheaval in Ecuador today. You are the ones who are destroying a beautiful and diverse country. You are the extremists who have polarized the country to the point of splitting it in two - between rich and poor.
Your efficient policies, which have been applied by successive governments, have resulted in the destruction of Ecuador's natural resources, have dedicated more than 50% of the national budget to paying an illegitimate foreign debt, have burdened the country with the highest rates of inflation in the continent, the highest levels of corruption, rate of deforestation and contamination, the worst example of maldistribution of wealth ... and this disaster, resulting from your recipes, is repeating itself in all the Third World countries in which you have intervened to "help us rise out of poverty."
Will you insist in continuing to give us advice and further economic recipes?
The Ecuadorian government, anxious to comply with the conditions you have imposed as a condition of your pending loan, is resorting to violence and attacks on the human rights of the Ecuadorian people. There exists, in fact, the hidden threat of punishing an indigenous movement that has conquered its rights and broken out of the constraints of racism.
Is this threat also a condition imposed by you?
Your presence is clearly putting our country at RISK, in capital letters, which clearly justifies putting you under arrest.
We are women from environmental and human rights movements who are in fundamental disagreement with your economic policies. We condemn the violence and racism they provoke, and most importantly, we condemn you.
On behalf of the organizations which are peacefully occupying the CONAM,
ASSAMBLEA PERMANENTE POR LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS
FRENTE DE MUJERES DE LA COORDINADORA DE MOVIMIENTOS SOCIALES
P.S. We also extend this arrest warrant to include Mr. Ricardo Naboa, representative of the CONAM, who is your accomplice in the implementation of your policies.