Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno has moved his government from Quito to Guayaquil to escape escalating violent protests over the end of fuel subsidies.
Protesters armed with sticks, stones and petrol bombs have been taking to the streets, ransacking and vandalising public buildings, burning military vehicles and clashing head on with the police–running battles late into the night. Moreno announced a state of emergency on October 3.
The outnumbered security forces have been unable to prevent much of the destruction. On October 7, rioters forced their way into the comptroller general’s office and vandalised the assembly building. Ecuador’s congress says it was an “attempt to take over the seat of parliament.”
Hundreds of indiginous people also clashed with security forces and military on October 7 as they marched towards the Presidential Palace in Quito. The military used tear gas to try to dispel crowds in the town of Machachi, who had barricaded roads with burning tires and sticks.
“More than 20,000 indiginous people will be arriving in Quito,” says Jaime Vargas, leader of the umbrella organization CONAIE–a key player in bringing down the government back in 2000.
Protesters from southern Andean provinces as well as indiginous groups from the north are converging on Quito for a protest scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, says CONAIE.
Indiginous leaders claim that they are holding several dozen soldiers since October 6.
Fuel subsidies had been costing Ecuador close to US$1.4bn (£1.1bn) annually according to official sources. Moreno lifted the subsidies on October 1 as part of a US$4.2bn loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, leading transport unions to strike. The unrest quickly escalated to nationwide protests, as an overnight price hike increased petrol prices by about a quarter and diesel prices more than doubled.
To date, the protests have left one civilian dead, 77 injured and 570 detained, according to government figures.
Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy also announced on October 7 that three oil fields in the Amazon region had been closed “due to the seizure of the facilities by groups of people outside the operation,” according to AFP news agency.