Violent protests against Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso’s economic policies have paralyzed the country’s capital and other regions, but the government on Wednesday rejected their terms of dialogue.
Quito is experiencing a shortage of food and fuel after 10 days of demonstrations, with protesters sometimes clashing with police. After officials rejected the terms of negotiations, the U.S. government issued a council urging travelers to reconsider visiting the country due to “civil unrest and crime.”
The demonstrations, led primarily by the original organization Conaie, began on June 14 to demand that gasoline prices be lowered by 45 cents a day. gallon to $ 2.10, price controls for agricultural products and a larger budget for education. The protests began with peaceful roadblocks, but the level of violence has escalated in parts of the country, including the capital Quito, prompting conservative ex-banker Lasso to declare a state of emergency in six provinces.
Former leader Leonidas Iza on Tuesday demanded – among other things – that the government remove the emergency decree and remove the military and police presence around places where protesters have gathered in Quito.
But the minister said on Wednesday that the government could not lift the state of emergency because it would leave “the capital defenseless”.
“It’s not time to impose more conditions, it’s not time to demand greater demands, it’s time to sit down and talk, we’re on the 10th day of the strike,” Francisco Jiménez told a television network. “And we can not keep waiting, the capital can not keep waiting, the country can not keep waiting.”
The protests – longer lasting and larger than marches over fuel prices in October last year – test Lasso’s ability to restart the country’s economy and kickstart employment.
Lasso has a conflicting relationship with the National Assembly, where lawmakers have blocked his proposal and he has struggled to curb the growing violence he blames drug gangs for.
Protesters armed with weapons, ancestral spears and explosives clashed with soldiers in the town of Puyo in Pastaza province on Tuesday night, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said.
The protesters set fire to a police station and patrol cars, tried to loot a bank and attacked civilians, Carrillo told reporters and blamed radical groups for the incidents.
“We can not guarantee public safety in Puyo right now – they have burned the entire police infrastructure and the entrance to the city is under siege,” he said.
Leaders of indigenous Amazonian communities said in a statement that they rejected vandalism in Puyo and accused security forces of exacerbating the violence in the city.
A protester died during the incidents 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 a tear gas canister from police, according to human rights groups.