On Friday evening, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in three provinces in response to sometimes violent demonstrations by indigenous groups demanding fuel price reductions.
Oil-producing 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 per gallon (3.8 liters) and rising from $1.75 to $2.55 for gasoline.
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Protesters from the country’s indigenous community, which makes up more than one million of Ecuador’s 17.7 million people, launched an open-ended anti-government protest this week that has since been joined by students, workers and others.
Protests have blocked roads across the country, including highways leading to the capital Quito.
Clashes with security forces during the protests left at least 43 injured and 37 arrested.
In response, Friday’s Lasso executive order that covers Quito allows the president to mobilize the armed forces to maintain order, suspend civil rights and declare curfews.
“I am determined to defend our capital and our country,” Lasso said on television.
“I called for dialogue and the response was more violence. There is no intention to seek solutions.”
Protests have largely been concentrated in the northern region of Pichincha and neighboring Cotopaxi and Imbabura.
Spear in hand, indigenous Amazonians temporarily occupied the seat of local government in the provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago this week.
Watch | Ecuador imposes emergency in three provinces in response to violent protests
The country’s armed forces condemned on Twitter “the violent actions carried out by the demonstrators” in Pastaza, saying that one person suffered “fractures and multiple injuries”.
In Quito, nearly 1,000 demonstrators tried to tear down the metal fences surrounding the presidential headquarters.
In a bid to assuage popular anger, Lasso announced in his Friday night speech a small increase in a monthly subsidy paid to Ecuador’s poorest people, as well as a program to provide debt relief for those with loans. from public banks.
Lasso, a right-wing ex-banker who took office a year ago, met with indigenous leaders on Thursday to assuage discontent, but talks apparently yielded little result.
Growers of flowers, one of Ecuador’s main exports, complained on Friday that due to roadblocks their goods were rotting.
But the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which called for the protests, said it would maintain roadblocks until the government responds to 10 demands.
Conaie, who was credited with helping overthrow three Ecuadorian presidents between 1997 and 2005, wants prices reduced to $1.50 for diesel and $2.10 for gasoline, a demand the government has so far rejected.
His other demands include control of food prices and the renegotiation of personal bank loans for around four million families.
In response to Lasso’s decree, Conaie chief Leonidas Iza insisted the protests would continue “indefinitely”.
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“From this moment, we are preparing the mobilization” of activists in Quito to maintain the protests, he added, without specifying when the demonstrators would arrive.
The protests have so far caused around $50 million in damage to the economy, according to the Production Ministry.
But Conaie called for an end to the violence.
“Vandalism, confrontation, violence cannot be accepted,” Iza said.
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Post expires at 1:48pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022