for the tenth day in a row, thousands of indigenous protesters paralyze the capital Quito to denounce the cost of living

Thousands of Ecuadorian natives marched on Wednesday, June 22, through the streets of Quito for the tenth day in a row. This increasingly tense standoff between the government and the protesters left two dead and dozens injured. Ecuador’s capital has been partly paralyzed since Monday by around 10,000 indigenous protesters from across the country who take to the streets daily to protest the cost of living and demand more social benefits, amid hardship growing economy.

To the cries of “Lasso out!” »in reference to the head of state Guillermo Lasso, protesters burned tires and tree branches, while barbed wire and military guards protected the presidential palace. “We are living in an economic crisis in the countryside, there is no development there, there are no jobs, we are just farmers and our women [vivent de la production] of milk “Olmedo Ayala, 42, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

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The government refuses to lift the state of emergency declared in six of the twenty-four provinces of the country, a requirement of the indigenous movement prior to the opening of negotiations.

Quito also denounced the attack, in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, of a police station in the city of Puyo, in the province of Pastaza. The attackers set fire to the building while the police were still inside. “Six police officers were seriously injured, three are being held hostage [par une communauté indigène] and eighteen are missing”listed the Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, during a press conference.

“Call to dialogue”

A branch of a bank was also set on fire and other buildings ransacked, according to the minister. It was during this violence that a protester was killed and his death announced on Tuesday evening. He died after having “handled an explosive device”according to the police, “hit in the face, apparently by a tear gas grenade”according to an NGO.

“Puyo’s violence shows that they do not want dialogue”denounced Mr. Carrillo, who however “once again issued a public call for dialogue to the indigenous movement and to those radical groups responsible for these senseless acts”. On Tuesday, the president said he accepted “a process of frank and respectful dialogue with Conaie [Confédération des nationalités indigènes de l’Equateur] and other civil organizations”.

Indigenous protesters march for the tenth day in a row in the streets of Quito, under a state of emergency, in Ecuador, on June 22, 2022.
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The powerful Conaie, which participated in the revolts that overthrew three presidents between 1997 and 2005 and led violent demonstrations in 2019 (eleven dead), has been organizing marches and raising barricades since June 13 to demand lower fuel prices. Its president, Leonidas Iza, demanded on Tuesday evening, prior to any discussion, the repeal of the state of emergency, as well as the “demilitarization” of a park in Quito occupied by the police and traditionally used as a gathering point for the natives.

“Peaceful Resolution”

“We cannot lift the state of emergency because it would leave the capital defenceless”replied Wednesday, the Minister of Government Affairs, Francisco Jimenez. “We already know what happened in October 2019 and we are not going to allow it”he said, in reference to the invasion of Parliament, the burning of a government building and the ransacking of numerous public properties.

The Alliance of Human Rights Organizations reports at least 90 injuries and 87 arrests since the protests began. The police, for their part, put forward a toll of 101 police and soldiers injured and 80 civilians arrested. On the night of Monday to Tuesday, a first demonstrator died following a fall, but the prosecution decided to open an investigation for alleged homicide.

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US Under Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Brian Nichols called out on Twitter on Wednesday to “a peaceful and negotiated resolution to the protests in Ecuador” and called on all parties to refrain from violence. The Organization of American States (OAS) urged dialogue to “respond to claims” Some protestors.

In addition to fuel prices, the demonstrators denounce the lack of jobs, the granting of mining concessions in indigenous territories, the lack of control of the cost of agricultural products, and demand a renegotiation of peasant debts with banks. Indigenous peoples represent at least one million of the 17.7 million Ecuadorians.

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Indigenous protesters march for the tenth day in a row in the streets of Quito, under a state of emergency, in Ecuador, on June 22, 2022.

The World with AFP