Ecuador’s protest leaders, president to meet, UN says

AFP, QUITO

Mon, Oct 14, 2019 - Page 5

A first meeting between Ecuador’s president and indigenous leaders was to take place yesterday, the UN said, after Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno ordered a curfew and military control in the capital to try to quell deadly anti-austerity protests.

The rolling demonstrations have left six people dead and nearly 2,100 wounded or detained, authorities said, with protesters on Saturday targeting a TV station and a newspaper.

The meeting was to be held in the capital, Quito, the UN and Catholic Church said in a joint statement.

“We put our trust in the goodwill of all to establish a dialogue in good faith and find a quick solution to the complicated situation in the country,” they said.

The crisis broke out at the start of this month after Moreno ordered fuel subsidies cut as part of a deal struck by his government to obtain a US$4.2 billion loan from the IMF.

CONAIE, the indigenous umbrella group leading the protests, had previously rejected an offer of dialogue and said the talks would focus on “the repeal or revision of the decree” that has left consumers paying more than double for fuel.

Ecuador’s indigenous groups make up a quarter of the country’s 17.3 million people. Thousands from disadvantaged communities in the Amazon and the Andes have traveled to Quito, where they are spearheading demands that the subsidies continue.

Demonstrators on Saturday ransacked and set fire to the building housing the Ecuadoran comptroller general’s office, which was shrouded in thick smoke after being attacked with Molotov cocktails.

The prosecutors’ office said 34 people were arrested.

Nearby, protesters built barricades in front of the Ecuadoran National Assembly building as police fired tear gas at them, journalists said.

The Teleamazonas TV channel interrupted its regular broadcast to air images of broken windows, a burned vehicle and heavy police presence on the scene.

“For about half an hour, we were under attack. They threw stones at us, forced open the doors and threw Molotov cocktails,” presenter Milton Perez said.

The station evacuated 25 employees, none of them hurt.

El Comercio newspaper wrote on Twitter that its offices were attacked by a “group of unknowns.”

It did not provide further details.