Ecuador protesters defy military warning with mass rallies

Ecuador protesters defy military warning with mass rallies
Ecuador protesters defy military warning with mass rallies

Thousands of anti-government protesters held rallies in Ecuador on Wednesday, defying a warning by the military on holding “violent” demonstrations as unrest over a fuel price hike continues.

The protesters are members of labor unions and indigenous groups demanding that Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno either step down or reinstate fuel subsidies that were rescinded on October 3, following a $4.2 billion (€ 3.8 million) loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund. The move reportedly increased fuel prices by 120%.

Demonstrators in the capital, Quito, tried to get close to the government headquarters in the colonial-era Carondelet palace, which had been cordoned off by police.

Some of the protesters reportedly threw stones at police, who responded by firing tear gas. Other groups of demonstrators reportedly blocked streets in the city.

On Tuesday, after thousands of protesters stormed the parliament building in the capital, Moreno moved government operations to the port city of Guayaquil.

Security was tight Wednesday around the empty congress building in Quito. The government said it had declared an overnight curfew in “strategic” areas to protect government buildings.

Ecuador Proteste
Hundreds of anti-austerity protesters gathered in Quito on Wednesday

Indigenous protesters take charge

Indigenous protesters, trade unionists and students in the port city of Guayaquil also held protests Wednesday, barricading roads and calling for a general strike.

Indigenous groups are seen as a powerful political force in Ecuador, and a major indigenous interest group CONAIE has mobilized around 6,000 of its members to Quito from other parts of the country.

The group said Moreno’s government was behaving like a “military dictatorship” by declaring a state of emergency and setting an overnight curfew.

Discussions with leaders of CONAIE took place in Guayaquil, Wednesday.  The government also reportedly held talks with protest groups but the march proceeded anyway.

Economic disruption 

The ongoing protests have disrupted economic activity across Ecuador, with stores remaining shut, widespread looting and roads blocked.

After protesters seized two oil installations, state oil company Petroecuador warned that one-third of the country’s oil output could be lost if protests continue.

More than 500 demonstrators have been arrested so far since demonstrations began last week.

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