Violent protests against the economic policies of Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso have paralyzed the capital and other areas, but the government on Wednesday rejected their terms for dialogue.
Quito is facing food and fuel shortages after 10 days of protests in which protesters occasionally clashed with police. After officials rejected the terms of the talks, the United States government issued an advisory call urging travelers to reconsider visiting the country due to “political unrest and crime.”
Protests, led mainly by the indigenous Conaie organization, began on June 14 to demand a 45-cent reduction in gasoline prices to $ 2.10 a gallon, agricultural price controls and a larger education budget. Protests began with peaceful roadblocks, but levels of violence have escalated in parts of the country, including the capital, Quito, prompting former conservative banker Lasso to order a state of emergency in six provinces.
Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza on Tuesday demanded, among other things, that the government repeal the emergency decree and remove the military and police presence around places where protesters have gathered in Quito.
But the government minister said on Wednesday that the government could not lift the state of emergency because it would leave “the capital defenseless”.
“This is not the time to put more conditions, this is not the time to demand bigger demands, this is the time to sit down and talk, we are on the 10th day of the strike,” Francisco Jiménez told television. “And we can not keep waiting, the capital can not keep waiting, the country can not keep waiting.”
The protests – longer and longer than the fuel price marches last October – test Lasso’s ability to restart the country’s economy and start creating jobs.
Lasso has a rival relationship with the National Assembly, where lawmakers have blocked his proposals and is struggling to curb the growing violence he accuses drug gangs of.
Protesters armed with weapons, ancestral spears and explosives clashed with soldiers in the town of Pugio, in the province of Pastaza, on Tuesday night, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said.
Protesters set fire to a police station and patrol car, attempted to rob a bank and attacked civilians, Carrillo told reporters, blaming radical groups for the incidents.
“We can not guarantee public safety in Puyo at the moment – the entire police infrastructure has been burnt down and the entrance to the city is under siege,” he said.
Leaders of indigenous Amazon communities said in a statement that they rejected the vandalism in Puyo and blamed security forces for escalating violence in the city.
One protester was killed during the clashes, and six police officers were seriously injured, while 18 are missing, the government said.
The protester was killed after being hit in the head by police tear gas, according to human rights organizations.