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Students in Ecuador protest budget cuts on Nov. 19-22; President Moreno calls cabinet to resign

Hundreds of university students reportedly marched through the streets of Quito, Puyo, Cuenca, and Guayaquil on November 19-22, to peacefully protest President Lenin Moreno’s 2019 budget bill presented to the Congress on October 31. According to the Federation of University Students (FEUE), which organized the protests, the proposed budget bill included a 144 million USD budget cut to universities. After the first day of protests, the government reportedly met with representatives from the universities and promised to withdraw the proposed budget cut. Nevertheless, the FEUE has stated that it will not back down until the budget cut is effectively withdrawn from the text of the bill. Meanwhile, on November 23, Moreno requested all of his cabinet members to resign, stating that this decision was part of a larger government evaluation policy which will last until the end of the year. Reports indicate that the Minister of Education, Minister of Economy and Finance, and the Communication Secretary have resigned so far.

Despite making some economic and financial progress since taking office, President Lenin Moreno is still facing financial challenges, particularly regarding the persistent fiscal deficit. We assess that until the government effectively withdraws the university budget cuts, further students protests remain likely. While it is a common practice for Ecuadorian presidents to request their cabinet members to resign, and in fact Moreno has done so last May, recent polls suggest that the economic instability and recent political differences over the budget cuts had a negative impact in his approval ratings. With falling oil prices, perspectives for an improvement to the Ecuadorian economy are not very promising. If this tendency is sustained, President Moreno is likely to seek additional solutions to the fiscal deficit, including further budget cuts to social areas.

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