On the tenth day of the national strike in Ecuador, this Wednesday, June 22, 2022, road closures continue in Quito. In addition, the protesters have already begun to march through the center of the capital, where some detonations of tear gas canisters used by the police have been recorded. On Tuesday, an indigenous protester died in clashes with the security forces, bringing the death toll to two after nine days of protests against the government of conservative Guillermo Lasso, denounced by the military as a “serious risk” to democracy.
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Carrying long wooden sticks and protected with handcrafted shields, some 10,000 indigenous people -according to the authorities- protested on Tuesday at various points of Quito reiterating his call for fuel prices to be lowered in the oil country.
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In a letter posted on Twitter, Lasso agreed, “for the good of the country,” to participate in “a frank and respectful dialogue process” with Conaie, the powerful indigenous organization that called the protests.
Their leader, Leonidas Isaresponded by conditioning the dialogue on the repeal of the state of emergency in force in six of the country’s 24 provinces, which mobilized the military to try to restore order.
LOOK: 3 keys to understand the protests in Ecuador and the state of emergency decreed by the government
In a statement broadcast on social media, the indigenous leader pointed out that the government’s response to the protests “has only managed to exacerbate the spirits of the population and generate serious escalations of conflict” and proposed “lowering the repressive actions.”
lassowho assumed power in May 2021, He has denounced that the indigenous movement wants to “throw him away”.
The biggest clashes were concentrated in the north of the Ecuadorian capital – a city of three million inhabitants -, very close to the Salesian University that houses the protesters.
The agents, several on motorcycles and on horseback, tried to disperse the protest with tear gas and water jets. launched by anti-riot vehicles.
The police presence was strong in the sector. The House of Culture, a building surrounded by mirrors that has traditionally been the meeting point of the indigenous people, was taken over by the forces of order to control the protests.
There were also pockets of demonstrations in the South of Quito and near the state central University (north), as well as in other parts of the country.
The Alliance of Organizations for Human Rights reported that an indigenous protester died on Tuesday when a “confrontation” with the public force was registered in the Amazonian town of Puyo (southeast).
The police indicated that “it is presumed that the person died as a result of handling an explosive device.”
In this way, the victims in the demonstrations rise to two, according to the Alliance. On Monday night a young man died after falling into a ravine during the protests and the prosecution opened an investigation for alleged homicide.
In its most recent balance, the human rights group reported at least 90 injured and 87 detained since the beginning of the protests.
The Police in turn reported 101 uniformed personnel (including 21 soldiers) injured, another 27 temporarily held by the protesters and 80 protesters arrested.
Democracy “at serious risk”
Fuels were already at the center of violent protests led by Conaie in 2019, which left 11 dead, more than 1,000 injured and forced former President Lenín Moreno to back down on a plan to eliminate fuel subsidies as part of a agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In almost a year, diesel has risen 90% (to $1.90) and regular gasoline 46% (to $2.55). Since last October prices have been frozen by social pressure.
Conaie claims to lower them to 1.50 and 2.10 dollars, respectively.
After nine days of protests, with roadblocks and effects on oil production, Defense Minister Luis Lara stated that “the democracy of the Ecuador is in serious danger.”
“The Armed Forces will not allow attempts to break the constitutional order or any action against democracy and the laws of the Republic,” added Lara, who spoke surrounded by the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The opposition Conaie participated in revolts that overthrew three presidents between 1997 and 2005.
The prosecutor’s office was also stoned by protesters, and its glass doors were smashed.
The mayor of Quito, Santiago Guarderas, said on Twitter that the demonstrations “continue to escalate and seriously compromise peace” and that the capital’s markets “are running out of supplies.”
The government estimates that for each day of protest, the country, whose economy is dollarized, loses about 50 million dollars, without taking into account the oil sector, the main export product.
Crude oil production fell by about 100,000 barrels per day, 21% of the total, due to protests in the Amazon jungle, where the wells are located, said the manager of state-owned Petroecuador, Italo Cedeño.
The natives also demand that the Executive control the prices of agricultural products to improve their family economies, employment and more budget for health and education, in addition to a one-year moratorium for the payment of credits with the bank and suspension of mining concessions in their territories.