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Ecuador declares new state of emergency as protesters demand talks

#Ecuador #declares #state #emergency #protesters #demand #talks

Ecuador declared a new state of emergency on Wednesday as tribal peoples marched on the capital Quito to demand a resumption of talks with the government, more than two weeks after destructive and often violent daily rallies against rising costs of living.

Negotiations to end the protests that have rocked the South American country were suspended on Tuesday – their second day – after the government blamed protesters for the death of a soldier.

And while protesters called for a return to the negotiating table, President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in four of the 24 provinces where the presidency said “most violence is concentrated”.

That didn’t include the capital, however, where most of the estimated 14,000 protesters have gathered.

Chanting: “We don’t want ten cents, we want results,” several hundred people demonstrated in the city center near the seat of government, which was cordoned off by the police, metal fences and barbed wire.

A protester wearing a traditional red poncho, leading a group of men with makeshift shields, addressed the rest via megaphone: “We will remain here until the President of the Republic resumes dialogue.”

He added, “If we have to sleep here … we will.”

Lasso has instead imposed a month-long state of emergency over Azuay, Imbabura, Sucumbios and Orellana provinces, the secretary-general for presidential communications said.

The goal is to create a “safe zone” around the country’s oil wells and to protect the food, medicine and fuel supplies in those provinces, as well as the oxygen used in hospitals.

These provinces are those where “most of the violence against people’s physical integrity and fuel supplies is concentrated,” the presidency said.

The measure, which will deploy the military alongside the police and ban demonstrations, is aimed at “ensuring the proper functioning of strategic sectors vital to the economy.”

Lasso on Saturday lifted a previous state of emergency in six other provinces – including Pichincha, where the capital is – in one of several concessions to protesters.

– Country held “hostage” –

The protests, which began on June 13, have been costly, with losses of around $50 million a day to the economy, according to the government, which has warned oil production – which has already been halved – is about to grind to a halt could come.

The nationwide discontent over the mounting hardship comes amid an economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The protests were called by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which has been credited with impeaching three presidents between 1997 and 2005.

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

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

Over the weekend, Lasso announced more concessions to boost talks, including cutting diesel and gasoline prices by 10 cents a gallon to $1.80 and $2.45 respectively.

That was only briefly addressed by protesters demanding a reduction to $1.50 for diesel and $2.10 for gas.

The government broke off talks after the military said on Tuesday a soldier was killed and five police officers and seven soldiers injured in an attack by protesters on an escort tanker in the east of the country.

Lasso, hours before surviving an impeachment vote, then accused Conaie leader Leonidas Iza of self-interested politics and vowed “we will not negotiate with those holding Ecuador hostage.”

Five protesters were killed and hundreds injured on both sides in clashes between security forces and protesters who blocked roads and cut supply lines.

According to observers, about 150 people were arrested.

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