Former President Rafael Correa
(left) attends President-elect Lenín Moreno
's (middle) 'changing of the guard' ceremony. The two PAIS
leaders were considered close allies before Moreno's "De-correaization" efforts started after he assumed the presidency.
Beginning in 2007, President Rafael Correa established The Citizens' Revolution, a movement following left-wing policies, which some sources describe as populist. Correa was able to utilize the 2000s commodities boom to fund his policies, utilizing China's need for raw materials. Through China, Correa accepted loans that had few requirements, as opposed to firm limits set by other lenders. With this funding, Ecuador was able to invest in social welfare programs, reduce poverty and increase the average standard of living in Ecuador, while at the same time growing Ecuador's economy. Such policies resulted in a popular base of support for Correa, who was re-elected to the presidency three times between 2007 and 2013. Correa also utilized his popular support to increase power for himself and his 'citizen's revolution', drawing criticism that such acts were an entrenchment of power.
As the Ecuadorian economy began to decline in 2014, Correa decided not to run for a fourth term and by 2015, protests occurred against Correa following the introduction of austerity measures and an increase of inheritance taxes. Instead, Lenín Moreno, who was at the time a staunch Correa loyalist and had served as his vice-president for over six years, was expected to continue with Correa's legacy and the implementation of 21st century socialism in the country, running on a broadly left-wing platform with significant similarities to Correa's.
In the weeks after his election, Moreno distanced himself from Correa's policies and shifted the left-wing PAIS Alliance's away from the left-wing politics and towards the center. Despite these policy shifts, Moreno continued to identify himself as social democrat. Moreno then led the 2018 Ecuadorian referendum, which reinstated presidential term limits that were removed by Correa, essentially barring Correa from having a fourth presidential term in the future. At the time, Moreno enjoyed an approval rating of 80 percent. Moreno's distancing from his predecessor's policies and his electoral campaign's platform, however, alienated both former President Correa and a large percentage of his own party's supporters. In July 2018, a warrant for Correa's arrest was issued after facing 29 charges for alleged corruption acts performed while he was in office.
Due to increased borrowing by Correa's administration, which he had used to fund his welfare projects, as well as the 2010s oil glut, public debt tripled in a five-year period and with Ecuador eventually coming to use of the Central Bank of Ecuador's reserves for funds. In total, Ecuador was left $64 billion in debt and was losing $10 billion annually. On 21 August 2018, Moreno announced economic austerity measures to reduce public spending and deficit. Moreno stated that the measures aimed to save $1 billion and included a reduction of fuel subsidies, eliminating subsidies for gasoline and diesel, and the removal or merging of several public entities, a move denounced by the groups representing the nation's indigenous groups and trade unions.
By mid-2019, analysts stated that Moreno's overturning of Correa's policies, arguably populist, as well as the implementation of austerity measures and his turn towards centrism cost him political support, with his approval ratings dropping to about 30%. In the months leading up to the protests, other sporadic demonstrations began to occur against Moreno's government as well.