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Ecuadorian government and indigenous leaders sign accords to end protests

#Ecuadorian #government #indigenous #leaders #sign #accords #protests

The Ecuadorian government and indigenous leaders signed an agreement on Thursday to cut fuel prices and end cost-of-living protests that have partially paralyzed Ecuador for 18 days.

The deal, brokered by the Catholic Church and signed in Quito, will see a five cent per gallon cut in diesel and gasoline prices, on top of a ten cent cut already granted by the government.

Soaring fuel prices sparked the protests, called by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), and marked by burning roadblocks and sometimes violent clashes with security forces.

Since the protests began on June 13, five civilians and one soldier have died, hundreds have been injured on both sides and around 150 have been arrested.

The agreement, signed by Conaie leader Leonidas Iza and government minister Francisco Jimenez, provides for the creation of a negotiating forum, the lifting of roadblocks and the lifting of the state of emergency.

It also provides for the review of government regulations on oil exploration and mining in indigenous areas of the Amazon.

Iza announced after signing that “we will suspend the protest”.

President Guillermo Lasso, an ex-banker who came to power 13 months ago, said of the deal: “We have achieved the highest value we all aspire to: peace in our country.”

He added on Twitter: “The strike is over. Now, together, we begin the task of transforming that peace into progress, prosperity and opportunity for all.”

An estimated 14,000 Ecuadorians – most of them in Quito – have taken part in the nationwide demonstration of dissatisfaction against mounting hardship in an economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday’s agreement provides for “the cessation of mobilizations and the gradual return (of the protesters) to the areas” from which they came to join the protest.

Indigenous people make up more than a million of the South American nation’s 17.7 million residents.

The protesters called for fuel price cuts, jobs, food price controls and more public spending on health and education.

– $50 million a day –

Talks started on Monday but were called off the following day after the government accused protesters of killing a soldier.

On Wednesday, the government announced it was resuming talks but also imposed a new state of emergency in four of the country’s 24 provinces as violence continued to disrupt the nationwide insurgency.

The action was costly, with losses of about $50 million a day to the economy, according to the government, which has warned oil production – which has already been halved – could soon grind to a halt altogether.

Crude oil is the South American country’s top export, but production has been halved from the pre-protest rate of about 520,000 barrels a day, the government said.

Operations on more than 1,100 wells were affected.

Lasso survived an impeachment vote on Tuesday brought by opposition politicians who blamed him for the “serious political crisis and internal uproar” caused by the protests.

Protest instigator Conaie is credited with unseating three presidents between 1997 and 2005.

According to 2021 data, more than a quarter of Ecuadorians experience poverty, and only about one in three have “decent employment” in a country with a large informal employment sector.

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#Ecuadorian #government #indigenous #leaders #sign #accords #protests

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