Ecuador: 11th day of mobilizations, episodes in front of the parliament

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Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Thursday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.

Screaming for joy, thousands of natives entered the House of Culture (Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, CCE) earlier, which had been ordered for days by security forces, the AFP news agency reported.

Traditionally, this vast cultural space is a meeting place and gathering of indigenous people in the capital. Free access to the CCE was one of the conditions of the protest movement to start negotiations.

Leonidas Isa, head of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Ethnicities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the largest indigenous organization, saw a first “victory of the struggle” with the megaphone in his hand.

The government has finally decided to allow protesters to settle there to promote “dialogue” and “peace”, Presidency Minister Francisco Jimenez explained.

The aim is to “stop roadblocks, violent demonstrations, attacks in various locations,” the minister added, while head of state Guillermo Lasso, who was diagnosed with the new coronavirus on Wednesday, is in isolation.

“Ugly omen”?

A goal that was apparently left unfulfilled, as a large number of protesters, led by women, tried to enter the nearby parliament.

Officers, developed largely on the spot, repelled the protesters by using tear gases and grenades. Participants in the march retaliated by throwing stones, fireworks, Molotov cocktails. The crowd then retreated to a nearby park.

Leonidas Isa, on the spot, spoke of an “ugly omen”, as “we had asked our base to make a peaceful march”.

During the mass demonstrations in 2019, protesters stormed the government headquarters, stormed the parliament for a while, set fire to a tax authority building and attacked the premises of two media outlets. The natives had denied any responsibility, denounced the actions of provocateurs who “infiltrated” their marches.

Some 14,000 people have risen across the country, protesting against rising living costs and mainly demanding lower fuel prices. Police estimate that about 10,000 of them were in the capital Quito yesterday.

Although many of the marches unfold in an atmosphere of calm, if not celebration, episodes often break out after nightfall. The capital is partially paralyzed.

The day before yesterday, some 300 protesters stormed a power plant in the Andes (southern) Tungurahua province, without any reports of serious damage or disruption.

Another condition for CONAIE to start talks is the lifting of the state of emergency imposed in six of the 24 provinces of Ecuador, including the one where the capital is administratively under. The measure allowed the deployment of strong police and army forces and the imposition of a night traffic ban.

The government rejects the request and claims that just meeting one of the protesters’ demands, the one on the price of fuel, would cost the state more than $ 1 billion a year.

“I’m crying to see all the people being abused by the government,” said Cecilia, an 80-year-old retiree holding a placard reading “Lasso Liar.”

“They say we are lazy, that we do not produce, that is why there are shortages,” said Naira Chalan, a leading Indigenous figure who addressed protesters.

The natives left communities in the provinces eleven days ago, but did not arrive in the capital Quito until Monday. Their arrival escalated the bradyfer with the government.

Right-wing President Lasso, in power for a year, sees in the ongoing uprising an attempt to overthrow him. From 1997 to 2005, three Ecuadorian presidents were forced out of office, under pressure from the natives.

Three people have been killed, 92 injured and 94 arrested in the ongoing protests, according to a report released by the Alliance of Human Rights Organizations on Thursday.

In 2019, in the previous wave of mass mobilizations, against the end of the state fuel subsidy, violent clashes broke out with the police, resulting in 11 dead and thousands injured.

The then president Lenin Moreno was finally forced to take back financial measures that his government had negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

President Lasso, however, can count on the support of the military leadership, which warned the protesters on Tuesday, arguing that the mass mobilizations pose a “serious threat” to democracy in the Latin American country.

source: ΑΠΕ

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