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Ecuadorian police arrest indigenous leader, violence escalates

Ecuadorian police on Tuesday arrested the leader of the country’s largest indigenous organization, Leonidas Iza, after carrying out roadblocks on several highways and other allegedly violent acts in protest against the government’s economic policies.

Iza’s lawyer called the detention illegal and said it was unclear what crime he was charged with.

Indigenous groups began what they said was an ongoing protest on Monday demanding that President Guillermo Lasso freeze gas prices, declare a moratorium on small farmers’ bank debts and limit oil and mining expansion in the country.

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On Monday evening, protesters torched a patrol car and attacked police officers, shut down a pressure pump in an oil field and damaged infrastructure at some horticultural farms, the government said.

Iza’s arrest on Tuesday sparked further protests, while violence increased in parts of the country.

“He was intercepted and held in a violent manner, incommunicado for five hours. We did not know where he was and we still do not know what crime he is charged with,” said Iza’s lawyer, Lenin Sarzosa. , to journalists in Quito. “We filed a habeas petition for unlawful detention.”

Iza CONAIE’s organization tweeted a video of her detention, describing it as “violent, illegal and arbitrary”.

Four people allegedly involved in crimes and one person who is an intellectual author are waiting to be heard, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo wrote on Twitter.

Watch | Violent protests erupt in Ecuador against government economic policy

“Demonstration is a right that we defend as a government, but not chaos and even less violence,” added the minister.

Hundreds of indigenous people arrived in Latacunga, south of the capital Quito, to support Iza on Tuesday afternoon. Other marches have been reported in small towns with indigenous populations.

Ecuadorian police said officers were assaulted and several of them detained by protesters in Latacunga.

Community and student groups also protested Lasso’s economic reforms in Quito in the afternoon, culminating in an attack on a police car, according to Reuters witnesses.

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“No matter what, no matter what, even if we have to rot in prison, we will continue to fight,” said Marlon Vargas, leader of the Amazonian indigenous group, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon ( CONFENIAE).

Lasso said he would not allow protests to affect economic recovery and would punish any vandalism during protests.

Ecuadorian oil company PetroOriental said it was losing some 1,400 barrels a day of production and closed eight wells in Orellana province after a small group from the Yawepare community occupied its facilities, blocked roads to access and damaged the tires of military vehicles with spears.

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