Major shake-up in Ecuador cabinet after mass protests

Economy minister Simon Cueva, health minister Ximena Garzon, transport and public works minister Marcelo Cabrera and higher education minister Alejandro Ribadeneira have all left their posts.

Demonstrators try to tear down a fence in the framework of indigenous-led protests against the government of President Guillermo Lasso that began on Monday, in the surroundings of the Carondelet government palace, in Quito, on June 17, 2022. Ecuador's president met a small group of Indigenous leaders Friday for talks seeking to end countrywide fuel price protests that surrounded the capital Quito with road blockades for a fifth day.

QUITO, ECUADOR - Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso on Tuesday accepted the resignations of four cabinet members, the government said, just days after damaging protests against the cost of living ended.

Economy minister Simon Cueva, health minister Ximena Garzon, transport and public works minister Marcelo Cabrera and higher education minister Alejandro Ribadeneira have all left their posts.

Lasso thanked Cueva "for his loyal and valiant services in the exercise of his functions," said a statement from the presidency.

The statement did not give any reasons for the resignations.

An economy ministry spokesperson told AFP that Cueva had made the decision to resign "a couple of months ago."

Lasso named businessman Pablo Arosemena, currently serving as governor of the eastern province of Guayas, to replace Cueva.

Ecuador was gripped by 18 days of at times violent protests led by a powerful Indigenous group that left six people dead, until the government agreed last week to several demands, including a reduction in the price of fuel.

The central bank said Tuesday that the protests cost the country at least $1 billion.

"There is nothing more absurd than to ask, on the one hand, for more resources, for fair social care, while at the same time, attacking the source of income that meets those demands," said Lasso at the swearing-in of his new ministers, referring to the paralysis of oil wells and pipelines due to the protests.

The agreements made with protesters, including extra financial aid for the country's poorest, will cost the country $700 million a year.

These concessions come at a time when the country is struggling with an economic crisis due to previously low oil prices -- affecting one of Ecuador's main exports -- and the ravages of the pandemic.

Oil production dropped almost by half during the protests, during which demonstrators managed to paralyze more than 1,000 oil wells in the country.