Protesters move into Ecuador’s capital, causing president to move out

Protesters move into Ecuador’s capital, causing president to move out

Thousands of indigenous people have converged on Ecuador’s capital as anti-government protests led the president to move out of Quito.

The South American country of 17 million people has been paralysed by a lack of public transport and blockaded roads that are taking a toll on an already vulnerable economy.

Violence has persisted since last week, when President Lenin Moreno’s decision to end subsidies led to a sharp increase in fuel prices.

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

The neighbourhood El Arbolito is full of teargas fired by police during protests against the government in Quito (Dolores Ochoa/AP)
The neighbourhood El Arbolito is full of teargas fired by police during protests against the government in Quito (Dolores Ochoa/AP)

The government declared an overnight curfew around key state installations and government buildings as well as vital infrastructure such as airports and oil refineries.

Responding to the crisis, the UK has updated its travel advice for Ecuador.

It said: “Protests across Ecuador since October 3 (have) caused nationwide disruption, with demonstrations and road blockages in many provinces.”

The UK travel advisory added that a state of emergency has been declared in Ecuador and that a major demonstration is planned for Wednesday.

On Tuesday, protesters broke through police barriers and some entered the empty congress building in Quito.

Anti-government demonstrators (Fernando Vergara/AP)
Anti-government demonstrators (Fernando Vergara/AP)

Police fired tear gas and forced them to retreat.

Indigenous protesters occupied two water treatment plants in the city of Ambato, south of the capital, raising concern about supply to residents, according to municipal authorities.

The state of emergency, which was declare last week, allows the government  to curb some civil liberties as it tries to restore order.

The disturbances have spread from transport workers to students and then to indigenous demonstrators.

Indigenous protesters played a major role in the 2005 resignation of Ecuador’s president at the time, Lucio Gutierrez, though the military’s tacit approval was key to his removal.

Indigenous anti-government protesters (Dolores Ochoa/AP)
Indigenous anti-government protesters (Dolores Ochoa/AP)

The country’s biggest indigenous group, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, said Moreno’s government had failed to alleviate the welfare of Ecuador’s “most vulnerable” people.

The group made similar complaints about Rafael Correa, his predecessor.

“We have shown throughout Ecuador’s history that indigenous peoples have the power to shut down the country when our rights are put at risk and power is abused,” indigenous groups said in a statement.

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