QUITO – A demonstration on Wednesday by thousands of Ecuadorian college students unhappy with government proposals to reform the university system ended in a violent confrontation with police.
Protesters gathered at a park on the north side of Quito and marched to the presidential palace, where police responded with tear gas after students hurled bottles and sticks while making several attempts to storm the gates.
Media outlets blamed the violence on leaders of the Ecuador Federation of University Students, who demanded a meeting with President Rafael Correa or Vice President Lenin Moreno.
Joining students for the peaceful part of the demonstration were professors, university chancellors and administrative personnel, opposition politicians and business leaders.
A similar protest took place in coastal Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city, where students marched to the offices of the Guayas provincial government, delivering a petition to Gov. Roberto Cuero.
The Correa administration’s education bill is an “authoritarian” measure that “reduces, assaults and occupies the autonomy of universities and of the system,” according to Gustavo Vega, head of the National Higher Education Council.
Critics of the proposed legislation want changes in the articles applying to universities’ operational and financial autonomy. Students, professors and administrators also complain that they weren’t consulted when the administration drafted the bill.
The government, however, stresses the need for a “university revolution” and for the state to recover its policymaking and regulatory role in the realm of higher education.
Officials likewise claim that some opponents of the bill are members of entrenched sectors who fear losing “their privileges.” EFE