Indigenous protesters clashed with Ecuadorean forces as they marched toward the capital Quito to demonstrate in a fifth day of action against fuel price rises, while the government announced the seizure of oil facilities, an act that slashed production by 12%, AFP reported on October 8th.
Riot police used tear gas to try to disperse marchers in the town of Machachi on the outskirts of Quito after they blocked roads with burning tyres and barricades around the country and blocked a main road into the capital.
The umbrella indigenous organisation Conaie said demonstrations would continue until President Lenín Moreno withdraws last week’s measure to eliminate fuel subsidies which is part of a liberal economic reform package.
“More than 20,000 of us will be arriving in Quito to demand that the government overturn the decree,” the Conaie President, Jaime Vargas, told a news conference, saying that mobilisation would coincide with a national strike planned for Wednesday.
Conaie said protesters from southern Andean provinces, some armed with sticks and whips, are travelling to the capital in lorries and on foot, while other indigenous groups are set to arrive from the north.
Other demonstrators tried to force their way into the National Legislative Assembly in the capital and committed “acts of vandalism in the vicinity.”
Violent protests have erupted throughout the country after increases of up to 120% in fuel prices came into force on October 3rd. The demonstrations have left one civilian dead and 77 injured, the majority of them members of the police force, the government said.
Detentions have risen to 477 since Thursday, mainly for vandalism, including the destruction of a dozen ambulances, the Interior Minister, Paula Romo, told local Radio Quito, according to The Guardian.
Police installed barricades around the presidential palace, closing off the city centre.
The clashes came as Ecuador's Ministry of Energy announced that activities in three oil fields in the Amazon region, one operated by private firm Petrobell and the others by state company Petroamazonas, had been suspended "due to the seizure of the facilities by groups outside the operation."
The seizures slashed the country's oil production by 12%, or 63,250 barrels of crude per day, the Ministry said in a statement that did not identify the groups responsible.
In a radio and television address, Moreno accused his predecessor and ex-ally Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, of an "attempted coup d'état," and of "using some indigenous groups, taking advantage of their mobilisation to plunder and destroy."
He said that government business had temporarily moved to the port city of Guayaquil.
As part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), signed in March, Moreno scrapped fuel subsidies to obtain loans despite Ecuador's high public debt.
The subsidies were costing the government $1.3 billion a year, and the IMF agreement allowed Ecuador to borrow $4.2 billion.
On Sunday, Moreno called for dialogue with the indigenous groups.
But Nelson Erazo, the leader of the Popular Front of workers and students, said "the people's actions will not stop here if the government does not change its policy."
On Thursday, Moreno declared a state of emergency, which allowed the government to restrict movement, to use the armed forces to maintain order and to censor the press.
"This is a very difficult situation, that could lead us into less stable situations, to governments that fall," said Simon Pachano, a political scientist at Quito's FLACSO University.