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Ecuador declares a new state of emergency as protesters demand dialogue

Ecuador declares a new state of emergency as protesters demand dialogue

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Ecuador decreed a new state of emergency on Wednesday, as indigenous people demonstrated in the capital, Quito, to demand the resumption of talks with the government, after more than two weeks of daily, disruptive and often violent demonstrations against the increase in cost of living

Negotiations to end the protests that have shaken the South American country were suspended on Tuesday – in what would have been their second day – after the government attributed the death of a soldier to protesters.

And while the demonstrators demanded to return to the negotiating table, President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in four of the 24 provinces in which, according to the presidency, “the greatest violence is concentrated.”

However, that did not include the capital, where most of the estimated 14,000 protesters have gathered.

Shouting: “We don’t want ten cents, we want results,” several hundred people demonstrated in the center of the city, near the government headquarters, which was blocked by the police, metal fences and barbed wire.

A demonstrator wearing the traditional red poncho at the head of a group of men with improvised shields addressed the rest through a megaphone: “We will stay here until the President of the Republic re-establishes dialogue.”

And he added: “If we have to sleep here… we will.”

Lasso, on the other hand, has imposed a state of emergency for a month in the provinces of Azuay, Imbabura, Sucumbíos and Orellana, said the Secretary General of Communication of the Presidency.

The goal is to create a “security zone” around the country’s oil wells and protect supplies of food, medicine and fuel in those provinces, as well as the oxygen used in hospitals.

Those provinces are the ones that “concentrate the greatest violence against the physical integrity of people and the supply of fuel,” said the Presidency.

He also added that the measure, in which the military will be deployed alongside the Police and demonstrations are prohibited, aims to guarantee “the proper functioning of strategic sectors that are vital to the economy.”

Lasso had lifted the state of emergency in six other provinces on Saturday – including Pichincha, where the capital is located – in one of several concessions to protesters.

The country is a “hostage

The protests, which began on June 13, have been costly, with the economy losing some $50 million a day, according to the government, which has warned that oil production – already halved – could stop completely soon.

The show of discontent across the country against rising inflation comes in an economy badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The protests were called by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which is credited with impeaching three presidents between 1997 and 2005.

Indigenous people represent more than one million of the 17.7 million inhabitants of the South American country.

The demonstrators want fuel prices to be reduced, food prices to be controlled and public spending on health and education to be increased.

Over the weekend, Lasso announced other concessions in an attempt to unlock the talks, including a 10-cent-per-gallon cut in diesel and gasoline prices to $1.80 and $2.45, respectively.

This measure was not well received by the protesters, who want a reduction to $1.50 for diesel and $2.10 for gasoline.

The government suspended the talks after the army said on Tuesday that one soldier was killed and five policemen and seven soldiers were wounded in an attack by protesters on the escort of a tanker truck in the east of the country.

Lasso, hours before surviving an impeachment vote, then accused Conaie leader Leonidas Iza of self-interested politics and promised that “we will not negotiate with those who hold Ecuador hostage.”

Five protesters have been killed and hundreds of people from both sides injured in clashes between security forces and protesters blocking roads and cutting off supply lines.

Some 150 people have been detained, according to observers.

*With AFP; adapted from its original English version

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Written by Editor TLN

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Ernesto Revilla, Citi's chief economist for Latin America.

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