Protesters defied COVID 19 restrictions in Ecuador over job, wage cuts

Demonstrators defied coronavirus restrictions to march in cities across Ecuador on Monday in protest against President Lenin Moreno ’ s drastic economic measures to tackle the crisis.

Moreno last week announced public spending cuts including the closure of state companies and embassies around the world , but trade unions Monday said workers were paying a disproportionate price compared to Ecuador ’ s elite .

“ This protest is because the government is firing workers to avoid making the rich pay, ” Mecias Tatamuez , head of the county ’ s largest union , the Unitary Front of Workers (FUT ), told reporters at a march in Quito.

Around 2 , 000 people marched in the capital , waving flags and banners and shouting anti -government slogans.

The protesters wore masks and respected distancing measures recommended against the spread of the coronavirus that has caused at least 3 , 200 deaths in the country , making it South America ’ s worst – hit nation per capita .

Authorities say more than 2 , 000 further deaths are likely linked to the virus .

Demonstrations took place in several other cities , including Guayaquil, the epicenter of Ecuador ’ s health crisis, where union leaders said hundreds marched through the city.

Moreno ordered the closure of Ecuadoran embassies, a reduction in diplomatic staff and scrapped seven state companies as part of measures designed to save some $ 4 billion .

He also announced the liquidation of the TAME airline , which has lost more than $ 400 million over the last five years.

The government says the pandemic has so far cost the economy at least $ 8 billion .

Public sector working hours have been cut by 25 percent, with an accompanying 16 percent pay cut .

Moreno said on Sunday that 150 , 000 people had lost their jobs because of the coronavirus .

Ecuador was struggling economically before the pandemic hit, due to high debt and its dependence on oil.

The IMF predicts that the economy will shrink by 6 . 3 percent this year , the sharpest drop of any country in South America .

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