Police in the Ecuadorian capital Quito fired tear gas to disperse indigenous protesters as they tried to storm Congress on the 11th day amid severe demonstrations over fuel prices and the cost of living.
Thursday’s confrontation came after protesters won concessions from the Ecuadorian government when President Guillermo Lasso was quarantined with COVID-19, allowing them to enter a cultural center symbolizing indigenous struggles, but Requisitioned by police over the weekend.
However, later in the day, a group of Aboriginal protesters, led by women, made their way to Congress only to be repelled by police as violence erupted.
Police fired tear gas as protesters threw rocks and fireworks.
Protest leader Leonidas Iza, who leads the indigenous group CONAIE, earlier hailed the government’s concession to the cultural centre as a “victory of the struggle” and expressed concern over the conflict.
“It’s a very bad sign because we’re asking our bases to march peacefully,” he said.
protests, which start On June 13, anger over the prices of fuel, food and other basic goods has claimed three lives and saw the government impose Six of the country’s 24 provinces have entered a state of emergency.
An estimated 14,000 protesters took part in the massive protest, about 10,000 of them in Quito, which has a nighttime curfew.
The protesters’ demands include cuts to already subsidized fuel prices that have risen sharply in recent months, as well as jobs, food price controls and more public spending on health care and education.
Ecuadorian government minister Francisco Jiménez announced the concession to the cultural center earlier on Thursday, saying it was “for dialogue and peace”.
In exchange, he demanded the free flow of people and goods, such as food and medicine, and called for a “stop to roadblocks, violent demonstrations and attacks.”
But Jimenez said it was impossible to lift the exception as protesters demanded.
The Russo government said it was also complying with other demands from protesters, including subsidizing fertilizers, forgiving bank debt and increasing the health and education budget. But it has ruled out cutting fuel prices, saying it would cost the state an unsustainable $1 billion a year.
Ecuador, a South American country riddled with drug trafficking and related violence, has been hit hard by rising inflation, unemployment and poverty — all exacerbated by the pandemic.
The protests included marchers brandishing sticks, spears and makeshift shields to burn tires and branches, paralyzing the capital and erecting barricades on major roads, severely damaging the economy.
A 38-year-old man was killed Wednesday in clashes between protesters and police in the southern town of Tarqui, the coalition of human rights groups said, accusing them of violence.
Dozens of people were also injured in demonstrations across the country, which indigenous groups have vowed to continue until their demands are met.
Police said the man died of an illness that occurred “during the demonstrations”.
the other two died On Monday and Tuesday, the Coalition reported 92 wounded and 94 civilians arrested during 11 days of protests.
117 police and soldiers were injured, officials said.
About 300 protesters took over a power plant in southern Ecuador on Wednesday night and briefly held its operator hostage, authorities said.
Official figures show the economy is losing about $50 million a day due to the protests, and that doesn’t include oil production – the country’s main export – which has also been affected.
Flower producers, Ecuador’s other main export, complained that their wares were rotting as trucks couldn’t reach their destination.
CONAIE led two weeks of protests in 2019 in which 11 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured, causing about $800 million in economic damage before the then-president abandoned plans to reduce fuel price subsidies.