EspañolThousands of people filled the streets of several cities in Ecuador on May 1, Labor Day, to demonstrate both for and against the government of President Rafael Correa. The events proceeded peacefully, without major disturbances — with the exception of the Luis Calderón case — and with a heavy police presence.
However, several Twitter users reported that state officials had forced public servants to attend the march in support of President Correa.
Three state workers — whose identities will be kept anonymous for security reasons — confirmed this claim with the PanAm Post. Two of them, who serve in Guayas province, asserted that the directors of their respective departments informed them that they had to attend the Correa’s demonstration, upon an express request of Premier Jimmy Jairala.
“We were told we had to sign an attendance log at the beginning and at the end of the march, and that we should go with an orange shirt — color of the Democratic Center (CD), Jairala’s political movement. We obviously had to support the ruling party,” they stated.
“There was also a social-media campaign with the hashtag #CDconlosTrabajadores (CD with the workers), handled by the staff of the premier’s troll center,” they added.
They further stated that it is not the first time that they have been forced to go to this kind of event, and that around 4,000 people of this public institution had to attend the demonstration.
“We were never told what the consequences were for missing the march. However, we all understood that the mere fact of being informed that there was an attendance log meant they would take actions against those who didn’t comply, such as reprimands or fines.”
In the same vein, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Trade asserted that he received a notification stating that he had to attend the government’s march.
“High-level officials sent a list of people who had to go to the demonstration. They further indicated that they would take photos of us that day [to prove we were there], and that these would be released by the National Secretariat of Communication.”
He finally asserted that although nobody told him that his absence would be punished, “the social-political pressure weighed more for those of us who attended. [If we don’t go] we may be frowned upon by our bosses, and even lose our job in the long term.”
Correa: “We Are More, Many More”
The largest Labor Day demonstrations gathered in the capital, Quito, where Correa himself led the march of the ruling PAIS Alliance party. The head of state later took the stage at the capital’s Plaza de Santo Domingo, and gave a speech in which he touted the strength of the Citizen Revolution, with the now traditional slogan: “we are more, many more.”
“This demonstration extends for kilometers and kilometers. Do you know why? Because we are more, many more. Not one step back fellow citizens,” President Correa said. He proceeded to name the various sectors of society who had gathered, without concern for the intimidation at play.
¿Cómo agradecerles? La asistencia superó todas las expectativas. En marcha en Quito participaron cerca de 60000 personas, esperábamos 40000.
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) May 1, 2015
“How can I thank you? The attendance exceeded all expectations. The march in Quito gathered about 60,000 people; we expected only 40,000.”
“The public servants, who enjoy of the most modern and just law in the region, are here with us; the self-employed workers, whose work we protect, respect, and admire are also here … This is the revolution of joy, leave the violence to those who are frustrated since they cannot beat us at the polls,” he stated.
Correa further emphasized that he “will not allow them [the recalcitrant right] to defeat us at the polls, or in the streets, or in social networks, or in the media.”
Meanwhile, in the other side of the city, the atmosphere was different. Indigenous groups, civil-society organizations, teachers and workers unions, and ordinary citizens chanted: “No more Correa.”
— #ResistenciaEC (@ResistenciaEC1) May 1, 2015
“The resistance awakened, it is impossible to deny so much dignity. Those who intend to ignore us are fools.”
Amid whistles and banners, the opposition demonstrators expressed their rejection of the government’s latest reforms to labor regulations, and the PAIS endeavor to incorporate indefinite presidential reelection in the Ecuadorian Constitution.
Who Dares Wins?
Gabriel Hidalgo, a political scientist and parliamentary adviser, told the PanAm Post that the demonstrations held across Ecuador on Labor Day generated three results: deepening personalization of politics, natural wearing out of power in Correa’s model, and refinement of procedures to bring allies to the streets.
“After the demonstrations on Friday, President Correa will harden his personality-heavy leadership, and he will make firm steps in the race for presidential reelection,” Hidalgo asserted, arguing that “his authority over the ruling faction, his management model, and his political party, are now confirmed.”
“Correismo’s personality-heavy appeal [is] consolidated and healthy — worn out but without a strong opponent — against a scattered and fragmented opposition, which gives Correa the victory to this dispute.”
“Attendance is another element in which both sides drew. But that circumstance alone does not define the Correismo’s political continuity,” Hidalgo concluded.
Edited by Fergus Hodgson.