QUITO – Isolated incidents and slogans marked the end of marches by unions protesting the labor policy of the Ecuadorean government, whose supporters gathered at the Plaza de la Independencia in Quito in response.
The interior minister said 15 police officers had been wounded and nine people arrested in incidents Wednesday involving students of a school in the south-central part of the capital.
An official told Efe that several agents suffered minor injuries in isolated incidents during the unions’ march, which was heavily guarded by the police.
The most serious occurred in the San Francisco square where police dispersed demonstrators who hurled stones at them.
The United Workers Front (FUT), the largest union in the country, which organized the protest attended by environmentalists, indigenous people and students, called it a success.
FUT’s president, Edgar Sarango, told journalists the march was “a peaceful demonstration” by workers and citizens opposing a new labor code.
Sarango denied claims by the government that the unions wanted to “destabilize” the government or that they had aligned with opposition groups.
“We marched for the defense of labor rights” and to “tell the government that we have concerns” regarding the new labor code, especially about alleged restrictions of the right to strike, he said.
The union leaders declared that they will continue protesting as long as there are attempts by the government to reduce the rights of the working class.
“The real left is here,” announced some union leaders during the march, in which people carried posters against Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.
Slogans such as “Correa out” of the government and “Revolution caricature” could also be heard during the march.
Some government supporters came out in Correa’s defense saying his government had done the most for workers and had improved education levels.
Addressing a crowd in Plaza de la Independencia in front of the government palace, the president said that his supporters are “many, many more” than his opponents.
Correa lashed out against the unions, criticizing leftist groups for instigating the workers and adding that they were “more dangerous” than rightists.
Speaking from a stage set up in the square, Correa recalled that his government had eliminated outsourcing and had improved employment rates.
He also stated that the new labor code is only in the discussion stage and assured it would benefit the working class and further reduce social inequality in the country.
Correa promised to “radicalize” his revolution and urged citizens to be “attentive” to the “destabilizing” attempts of opposition groups.