Ecuador Indigenous protesters arrive in Quito as president extends state of emergency

Ecuador Indigenous protesters arrive in Quito as president extends state of emergency

Thousands of indigenous people and members of other disaffected groups marched into Ecuador’s capital on the eighth day of protests against fuel prices on Monday, accused by the president of seeking only “chaos” and its removal.

President Guillermo Lasso has extended the state of emergency to cover six provinces, with a nighttime curfew in Quito, as he seeks to contain demonstrations that have seen roads barricaded across the country, cost the economy tens of millions of dollars and left dozens of people injured. .

“With this decision, the well-being of citizens is safeguarded in the face of violence. At the same time, the rights of those who demonstrate peacefully are protected,” the government said.

On foot, on motorcycles and in crowded trucks, indigenous protesters began a peaceful march towards the city center from Cutuglagua, an area in southern Quito where they have been growing in numbers since Sunday.

One hundred indigenous people also entered the city from the north.

The powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) – credited with helping to overthrow three presidents between 1997 and 2005 – has called for the protest as Ecuadorians increasingly struggle to survive.

Indigenous people comprise more than a million of Ecuador’s 17.7 million people, and their protest was joined by students, workers and others feeling the economic squeeze.

“We reach out, we ask for dialogue, but they don’t want peace,” Lasso said in a video on Twitter on Monday.

“They seek chaos. They want to expel the president.”

Police say 63 people have been injured in clashes and 21 others have been held hostage since the protests began, while human rights observers reported 79 arrests and 55 civilians injured.

‘Peace Zone’

A state of emergency declared last Friday allowed Lasso to mobilize the military to maintain order, suspend certain civil rights and declare a curfew.

On Sunday, Ecuadorian police requisitioned an indigenous cultural center in Quito to use as a monitoring base for protests.

The center housed thousands of indigenous people during anti-government demonstrations in 2019 that left 11 dead and more than 1,000 injured but forced then-President Lenin Moreno to abandon plans to eliminate fuel subsidies.

The Salesiana University, in the north of the capital, decided this Monday to “open the doors” of its facilities as a “zone of peace and humanitarian shelter” for indigenous people and called for “stop actions and attitudes that interfere or alter the processes of dialogue and search for solutions”.

Oil Producer Ecuador has been hit by rising inflation, unemployment and poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fuel prices have risen sharply since 2020, nearly doubling for diesel from $1 to $1.90 a gallon and rising from $1.75 to $2.55 for gasoline.

Conaie demands a price cut to US$1.50 a gallon for diesel and US$2.10 for gasoline.

It also wants control over food prices and a commitment to renegotiate the personal bank loans of around four million families.

(AFP)

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