Scenes from protests against government in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cheryl Sanders
October 12, 2019

On Thursday, anti-government protesters forced captive police officers to carry a coffin containing the body of an indigenous activist during a memorial service.

The subsequent discontent acted as a catalyst for a strike by transport unions, which then developed into full-scale protests, with thousands of indigenous protesters converging on Quito and forcing Moreno to move his government to the coastal city of Guayaquil.

STREET BATTLES Demonstrators clash with riot police in Quito, Ecuador on the second day of violent protests over a fuel price hike ordered by the government to secure a loan from an worldwide lender.

The officers, including a woman, were put on display before an angry crowd at Quito's House of Culture which indigenous groups have occupied since arriving in the city last weekend.

Since last week, security forces have turned tear gas and water cannons on protesters who have set up burning barricades and hurled stones at police lines. There are various factors that could contribute to sustained unrest, the people are bearing the brunt of the measures when the minimum wage is just $394/month, the government refuses to repeal the reforms or reinstate petrol subsidies, Ecuador is in massive debt and obligated to uphold the conditions of the loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.

About 700 people have been arrested for vandalism and other protest-related crimes since the unrest began, according to officials. A female officer could be seen wiping tears from her face.

All were forced to remove their boots in front of hundreds of demonstrators, some holding white roses in tribute to people who have been killed in the unrest. The officers appeared to be unharmed, and were released late Thursday.

More than 20 journalists inside the cultural center were barred for a while from leaving by protesters.

With some pushing for nothing less than the president's resignation, it seems there will be more protests to come over the weekend: "We're going to radicalize with more force", an indigenous leader, Jaime Vargas, told the crowd.

Five civilians, including an indigenous driver, have died in protests over rising gas prices in Ecuador, France Press reported.

Ecuadorians seemed divided over the protests and government measures.

"There's a lot of uncertainty about what might happen" in Ecuador, said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a USA -based research group.

Moreno has accused his predecessor and ex-ally Correa along with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of an "attempted coup d'etat" using indigenous groups.

"The future is very dark", said economic analyst Fernando Martin. He speculated that Moreno was not fully prepared for the ferocity of the reaction to the fuel price increases. The leader was identified by the office, which monitors human rights, as Inocencio Tucumbi of Ecuador's Cotopaxi region. Thousands of protesters are calling for a repeal of austerity measures as the country's president Lenín Moreno refuses to step down.

One person was hit and killed by a vehicle, and another person suffered fatal injuries after a fall during protests in Quito, according to Briones.

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