Demonstrators clash with riot police as thousands march against Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno's decision to slash fuel subsidies
Quito (AFP) - Protesters in Ecuador threw projectiles at riot police Wednesday in a second day of violent protests over a fuel price hike ordered by the government to secure an IMF loan.
The violence broke out as thousands of people representing indigenous groups, farmers and labor unions marched on a square in downtown Quito near the government headquarters.
After clashes broke out in the area Tuesday, the government of President Lenin Moreno posted security forces there to keep the march from reaching the plaza.
Protesters on Wednesday broke off from the main procession and hurled rocks at riot police, who fought back with volleys of tear gas.
The protesters are demanding that Moreno reinstate fuel subsidies that were rescinded after $4.2 billion in loans were agreed with the International Monetary Fund.
His government has held talks with protest groups but the march proceeded anyway.
Demonstrators pose for a picture during clashes with riot police in Quito
On Tuesday, clashes between security forces and protesters broke out near Congress and demonstrators – many of them indigenous men armed with sticks and whips – surged through a security cordon and into the building.
They rushed into the meeting room and occupied the podium, but were soon evicted by security forces.
Moreno subsequently ordered an overnight curfew to protect public buildings. He declared a state of emergency over the nationwide protests last week.
The demonstrations broke out after increases of up to 120 percent in fuel prices came into force on October 3.
They have so far left one civilian dead and 77 people injured, the majority of them security forces, the government said. A total of 477 people have been detained.
- Dialogue -
A sea of protesters converge on a plaza in Ecuador's capital Quito on October 9, 2019
Discussions with leaders of the powerful indigenous umbrella organization CONAIE took place in Guayaquil, some 170 miles (270 kilometres) southwest of the capital.
“There is dialogue with the brother indigenous peoples who unfortunately have needs”, Moreno said.
He also offered to free up resources for those hit hard by the rise in fuel prices.
Several days of protests against the fuel price hike have slashed the South American country’s oil output by a third, according to the Energy Ministry.
Production losses at the state-owned Petroamazonas will reach 165,000 barrels per day, the ministry said in a statement. Ecuador, which exited the OPEC international oil cartel last week citing economic constraints, normally produces 531,000 barrels per day.
- International support -
Moreno had accused his predecessor and ex-ally Rafael Correa along with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of an “attempted coup d’etat.”
He said they were using “indigenous groups, taking advantage of their mobilization to plunder and destroy,” accusations Maduro dismissed as absurd.
Moreno cut fuel subsidies as part of an agreement for a 4.2 bln dlr IMF loan
Moreno has drawn support, however, from seven Latin American countries that, in a joint statement, rejected any effort by Maduro and his allies to “destabilize” Ecuador.
All seven – which include Argentina, Brazil and Colombia – have right-wing governments that see Moreno’s moderate socialist administration as an important regional ally against Venezuela.
- “No coup” -
Correa, meanwhile, called for early elections and denied he was attempting to oust Moreno.
“There’s no coup here. Conflicts in democracy are resolved at the polls,” the Belgium-based Correa said in a video published on social media.
The protests are being led by indigenous leaders, farmers and labor unions
Moreno scrapped fuel subsidies as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to obtain loans despite Ecuador’s high public debt.
The subsidies were costing the government $1.3 billion a year.
The IMF agreement, signed in March, allowed Ecuador to borrow $4.2 billion.