Ecuador: Healthcare Workers Protest Against Reactionary Government

By Felipe Vera

On April 24, approximately 100 healthcare workers from the San Vicente de Paul Hospital in Ibarra, with the support of the Defense Front for Worker’s Rights-Imbabura (FDDT-I), led a combative protest fighting for a 14-point platform to address cuts in healthcare funding, layoffs, and a lack of protective equipment and COVID-19 testing for healthcare workers among other demands. In a matter of days, the Ecuadorian government was forced to grant several of the workers’ demands, sparking a wave of similar actions throughout the country.

The workers held the action outside the hospital waving red flags and carrying signs denouncing the government’s treatment of healthcare workers. Almost immediately the workers were met with police who attempted to stop the action, but they remained undeterred.

Although the old state is currently portraying the healthcare workers as heroes, only a few months prior during the popular rebellion in October, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s administration, especially his Interior Minister María Paula Romo, indiscriminately bombed hospitals and raided areas that attended to protesters who had been attacked and injured by firearms, teargas, cavalry, and armed military and police personnel.

On top of this, over 12,000 workers in the public sector have been fired in the past two months, 10,000 of whom were fired in a matter of days between February 27 and March 1. At least 2,500 of them had been healthcare workers. These firings were carried out after the government reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

With over 63 percent of  Ecuadorians unemployed and over two million living off of a dollar a day, while health care workers lack protective materials and many public sector workers have yet to receive payment, compradors like Economic Minister Richard Martínez would rather prioritize paying off their imperialist masters at the IMF.

As faithful lackeys of US imperialism, the old state has consistently proven itself to be in opposition to the livelihood and interests of the masses of people. The crisis has not been caused by COVID-19, but by the rotten system itself.

Although the concessions have yet to materialize and will not resolve the issues inherent under the semi-colonial and semi-feudal conditions of Ecuador, the campaign was a success at rallying the masses of workers and winning gains, along with inspiring other healthcare workers to take similar action across the country. The Ministry of Health now claims that it will verify the stocking of materials, the national government will send $120,000 to the hospital, and the provincial government of Imbabura will send $300,000 throughout the province along with another concessions The workers of Ibarra have shown that only through struggle can workers conquer freedoms and rights.

In response to the successful action, the Defense Front for the Struggle of the People (FDLP-EC) stated: “The spark ignited by fellow workers at the San Vicente de Paúl Hospital in Ibarra and the Defense Front for Worker’s Rights-Imbabura, was an unprecedented success because the objectives were achieved. Because with the defiant action of the proletariat, the government was brought to its knees to respond to the legitimate demands and revindications of the workers. That spark soon ignited a prairie fire. Today health workers across the country rose with an action that seeks to spur the old state and the government to comply with the list of demands, otherwise the action would become more radical.”