The End of “The Good Fight”? Organized Labor and the Petro-nation During the Neoliberalization of the Oil Industry in Ecuador
Early one morning in August 2003, in a residential area of Quito, hundreds of oil workers from Petroecuador , Ecuador’s state oil company, stood outside the headquarters of the Federation of Petroleum Workers of Ecuador (FETRAPEC ). The excitement was palpable. By mid-morning, a group brought out two giant papier mâché puppets, the first of Lucio Gutierrez, then President of Ecuador, dressed as a bride in a white dress, and the second of Horst Köhler, then President of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), dressed as a groom in a black tux. Hanging from Gutierrez’s dress was a plastic bottle labeled “oil patrimony .” In Köhler’s hand was a contract and in his breast pocket, dollars. The puppets were meant to bring attention to Gutierrez’s proposal to privatize the operations of Amazonian oilfields in order to secure loans from the IMF. Another group of workers carried a large sign that reads “just married,” and a nearby sign reads “la boda del año” (“the wedding of the year”), both referring to how the privatization deal was a marriage of convenience that weakened state control over the national oil industry, the largest revenue-generating sector in Ecuador.
Our special thanks to those who shared their life stories of petroleum-related struggle and their contagious passion for social justice and change. All errors of interpretation remain ours.