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Quito (AFP) – Indigenous Ecuadorians have flocked to the capital Quito from across the country in recent days to join protests against high fuel prices and the cost of living.

Four of the thousands of protesters told AFP why they responded to the call for anti-government demonstrations across the country by the indigenous peoples’ association Conaie.

At war’

Margarita Malaver, 35, traveled some 270 kilometers (167 miles) in the back of a truck from Puyo, the capital of the southeastern province of Pastaza, to Quito to declare “war” with the state.

In Puyo, where she moved 15 years ago from her childhood home in the Amazon region of Sarayaku in search of a decent life, she works as a laundress to feed herself and her three children.

Margarita Malaver from Puyo, Ecuador desperately wants 'prices to come down'
Margarita Malaver from Puyo, Ecuador desperately wants ‘prices to come down’ Veronica LOMBEIDA AFP

Malaver, wearing black-patterned face paint that he explained represents “war,” said he relies heavily on a $50 monthly poverty grant from the state.

She pays $80 to rent two rooms and a small kitchen for her family, with little left over for school supplies for her children, or anything else.

He desperately wants “prices to come down.”

Life is “hard,” he told AFP. “No work.”

The cost of a basic basket of consumer goods in Ecuador, for a family of four, is $735 today, compared to $710 a year ago.

Many like Malaver are protesting for more government spending on job creation, education and health care.

only two notebooks

Carlos Nazareno, 31, makes bamboo furniture in Pastaza, the same province as Malaver.

This job brings him about $300 in a good month, less than the minimum wage of $425, he told AFP, spear in hand among hundreds of other protesters.

The money, he said, is “barely for food, and not enough for the school needs” of his four children, who go to class “with only two notebooks” between them.

Carlos Nazareno, who builds bamboo furniture in Pastaza, Ecuador, says he wins
Carlos Nazareno, who builds bamboo furniture in Pastaza, Ecuador, says he earns “barely to eat” Veronica LOMBEIDA AFP

Nazareno said there are periods when he doesn’t sell “anything for a week” at the end.

“My children ask me for things and I don’t have a way to give them to them… my motorcycle is parked because I don’t have money for gas or to go get food,” he said.

In just over a year, fuel prices have risen sharply, nearly doubling for diesel from $1 to $1.90 a gallon and rising from $1.75 to $2.55 for gasoline.

wasted vote

Nele Cuchipe, 52, took over the care of her two grandchildren when her son, their father, died.

His goal, he says, is to give young people a proper education and a better future than their current impoverished life in the southern province of Cotopaxi.

Nele Cuchipe is raising her two grandchildren in the Cotopaxi province of southern Ecuador.
Nele Cuchipe is raising her two grandchildren in the Cotopaxi province of southern Ecuador. Veronica LOMBEIDA AFP

None of his surviving children have jobs.

Cuchipe makes a living growing potatoes, barley and a grain called chocho, but is suffering from recent increases in the prices of products such as oil, butter and fertilizer for his crops.

He said he wishes he could undo the vote he cast for President Guillermo Lasso a little over a year ago in the mistaken belief that as “a banker, a businessman” he would rescue the economy.

“Instead, hunger is going to kill us,” Cuchipe said.

“We are suffering from this government that does not want to understand, that does not react to anything,” he said.

Without savings

Rubén Chaluisa, 30, said he earns $10 a day working as a bricklayer in the town of Zumbahua, in another part of Cotopaxi province.

Ecuadorian Ruben Chaluisa works as a bricklayer in the town of Zumbahua
Ecuadorian Ruben Chaluisa works as a bricklayer in the town of Zumbahua Veronica LOMBEIDA AFP

He also grows potatoes and a root vegetable known as melloco to feed his wife and two children.

“We don’t manage to have savings like other people,” Chaluisa said, huddling against the cold in a red poncho.

Chaluisa said she had to start working at the age of 12 and fears the cycle of poverty will repeat itself with her own offspring.

I want them “not to suffer like us, to be a little more advanced than us.”



Reference-www.france24.com

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