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

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

President Guillermo Lasso extended the state of emergency to six provinces, with a curfew in Quito.

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

On foot, on motorcycles and in overcrowded trucks, indigenous protesters started a peaceful march into the city center from Cutuglagua, an area of ​​southern Quito where their numbers have been steadily increasing since Sunday.

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

The powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) — which helped overthrow three presidents between 1997 and 2005 — called for protests as Ecuadorians struggle to make ends meet.

More than a million of Ecuador’s 17.7 million residents are indigenous people, and their protest has since been joined by students, workers and others struggling economically.

“We’ve reached out, we’ve called 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 from the country.”

Police say 63 staff members have been injured in clashes and 21 others were held hostage for a short time since the protests began, while human rights monitors reported 79 arrests and 55 civilians injured.

‘Zone of Peace’

The state of emergency declared last Friday allowed Lasso to mobilize the armed forces to maintain order, suspend certain civil rights and impose a curfew.

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

The center had sheltered thousands of indigenous peoples 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 end fuel subsidies.

Salesian University, in the north of the capital, decided on Monday to open “the doors” of its facilities as a “zone of peace and humanitarian shelter” for the indigenous population, calling for “actions and attitudes to stop the processes of dialogue and the 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 per gallon and increasing from $1.75 to $2.55 for gasoline.

Conaie is demanding a price cut to $1.50 per gallon for diesel and $2.10 for gasoline.

It also wants food price controls and a commitment to renegotiate the personal bank loans of about four million families.

(AFP)

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