(Bloomberg) -- Representatives of indigenous organizations and Ecuador’s embattled government signed an agreement Thursday to end more than two weeks of nationwide protests over fuel prices and the high cost of living.
Mediated by the Catholic Bishops Conference, the government of President Guillermo Lasso agreed to increase subsidies at the pump. With other measures pledged by the conservative administration, the total is close to $1 billion, said Leonidas Iza, president of indigenous confederation CONAIE.
“We are going to continue our fight, but at this moment, according to the document that we’ve signed, comrades, at the national level we are going to suspend the de-facto measure,” said Iza, referring to road blocks that have strangled transport across large parts of the country.
“We have reached the supreme value we all aspire to: Peace in our country,” said President Guillermo Lasso via Twitter. “Now together we will start on the task of transforming this country in progress, wellbeing, and opportunities for all.”
The signing of the agreement, which the Church brokered in just hours, was delayed by last-minute demands and haggling over details amid the indigenous organizations, who finally publicly approved it through shows of hands.
“Our democracy is complicated,” said Iza.
The government agreed to extend offers made during the course of the 18-day often violent protests that included attacks on military convoys transporting food, fuel, and medicines, leaving one soldier dead and dozens of police and military wounded. At least two civilian deaths have been reported.
On Thursday, the government pledged to further cut diesel and gasoline prices accounting for close to 97% of demand by another 5 cents per gallon. This reduction comes on top of the 10-cent cut enacted earlier this week, which will increase fuel subsidies by a total of roughly $340 million in 2022 in addition to the $3 billion cost of the subsidy program, the Finance Ministry said.
The government also pledged to lift a state of emergency issued just 24 hours earlier and to cancel an executive decree aimed at increasing oil output. A decree to spur mining development will be changed to add additional environmental protections and to respect archaeological remains.
It will also maintain a public health emergency aimed at improving the distribution of medicines and subsidize fertilizers.
An unspecified list of further demands will be negotiated over coming weeks, with the Church continuing to mediate the talks. To sign the deal, the indigenous organizations had to relent on some of their 10-point list of demands, including an end to privatizations planned by the administration of the former banker Lasso.
The deal came on the second day after Lasso obtained enough support in Ecuador’s fragmented National Assembly for him to survive an impeachment attempt by a major leftist opposition party.
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