20,000 indigenous Ecuadorians to join fuel hike protests

Cheryl Sanders
October 9, 2019

As people continue to stream into Quito to take part in the demonstrations, now in their sixth day, the protesters are gearing up for a general strike on Wednesday, hoping to compel the government to act on demands to reconsider the austerity measures.

Ecuador's President, Lenin Moreno, has said he has moved his government from the capital in Quito to the coastal city of Guayaquil amid violent protests over the end of fuel subsidies.

A substantial police presence was seen in the areas surrounding the national assembly, where security forces clashed with demonstrators wielding stones, sticks and other improvised weapons.

Protests erupted last Thursday when the government cut fuel subsidies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecuador-protests/ecuador-protesters-block-roads-over-fuel-subsidy-cuts-idUSKBN1WI25Q as part of a package of reforms, in keeping with a $4.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

The president said that allies of his predecessor Rafael Correa had infiltrated the demonstrations in a bid to overthrow his government, without providing evidence.

Officials say the number of arrests has risen to 570.

The police - some on horseback, motorbike, or in armored vehicles - responded with tear gas and billy clubs.

Correa meanwhile called for early elections, citing "serious social upheaval", and denied Moreno's accusations that he was fomenting a coup.

Speaking in Belgium, where he lives in self-imposed exile, Correa scoffed at the accusation. "They say I am so powerful that with an iPhone from Brussels I could lead the protests", he told Reuters, holding up his mobile telephone.

"They are such liars".

"People couldn't take it anymore, that's the reality", he said, referring to the belt-tightening economic measures.

Public transport across Ecuador's major cities was shut down, and the country descended into chaos with street clashes continuing late into the night.

With protesters swarming around Quito, various government buildings were attacked overnight, authorities said, adding to looting and the destruction of ambulances and police vehicles in recent days.

In one incident, two people appeared to have fallen from a bridge during confrontations between police and protesters.

Protesters seized some oil installations and the state oil company, Petroecuador, warned that production losses could reach 165,000 barrels a day, or almost one-third of total production, if insecurity continues.

Oil production fell 31 percent following the outbreak of social unrest last week and the subsequent seizure of three oil facilities in the Amazon, the energy ministry said Tuesday.

"The governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Paraguay, express their resounding rejection of any destabilizing attempt of legitimately constituted democratic regimes and express their strong support for the actions undertaken" by Moreno, according to a joint statement issued by the Colombian government.

Although he enjoys the support of business and the military, Moreno's popularity has sunk to under 30%, compared with 70% after his 2017 election.

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