Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Indigenous Protesters Take Eight Police Officers Hostage Amid Ecuador Unrest

Ecuador Between cynicism and opportunism we still have dignity Nos queda la dignidad
Patty Aguilar | 12 October, 2019, 19:52

Rafael Correa has dismissed as "nonsense" allegations that he is plotting with Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro to destabilise the current Ecuadorean government amid violent unrest sparked by fuel price hikes.

Indigenous organizations initially demanded a restoration of fuel subsidies, then that Moreno leave office and, on Thursday, their umbrella group issued a statement saying the protests won't stop until the International Monetary Fund leaves Ecuador.

Protests and strikes have convulsed the country since President Lenin Moreno decreed austerity measures a week ago, including dramatic increases in fuel prices.

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 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.

Indigenous demonstrators paraded both men and one girl on a point in Quito before a crowd of tens of thousands.

Moreno was hopeful of resolving the crisis.

However, Wednesday's shutdown accounts for 68 percent of its oil output, the ministry said, adding that the protests had cost Dollars 12.8 million in lost production to date.

The first victim was hit by a vehicle on Sunday in the southern province of Azuay.

The elimination of fuel subsidies is part of a package of austerity measures created to reduce the public deficit in keeping with the terms of a 4.2-billion-U.S. -dollar loan agreement the government had signed with the International Monetary Fund.

Protests swell on October 3, when the hikes come into force.

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Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner told reporters that authorities have arrested a "significant number of foreign citizens" over the past week, many of whom confessed to having been paid between 40 and 50 dollars for participating in the riots that have forced the government into declaring a 60-day state of emergency, recently reduced to 30 days.

The protests had cost $12.8 million in lost production to date, it says.

The energy ministry announced it was shutting down one of the country's two domestic oil pipelines, effectively suspending two-thirds of its distribution of crude.

Protesters seized three oil facilities in the Amazon earlier this week.

Thousands also gather in Guayaquil to condemn the violence in the capital.

"He can blame whoever he wants but he knows the people are right", said Pedro Aranga, a 60-year-old street vendor and a native Quichua Ecuadorean.

Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo added to the sense of siege on Thursday, announcing on Twitter the arrest of 17 people, mostly Venezuelans, at Quito airport.

But what started as a concrete demand to reinstate fuel subsidies has turned into wider protests with many calling for Moreno to step down.

He denied reports that police had used excessive force he said they had followed "strict protocols [which were] drawn up under global norms".

Moreno has drawn support, however, from seven Latin American countries - including Argentina, Brazil and Colombia - that, in a joint statement, rejected any effort by Maduro and his allies to "destabilize" Ecuador.

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