Indigenous protests in Ecuador: Violent incidents erupt outside parliament

On the eleventh day, indigenous protests escalate in Ecuador. Nearly 14,000 demonstrators are mobilized across the country to protest against the rising cost of living and demand in particular a drop in fuel prices according to the police, who estimate their number at nearly 10,000 in the capital Quito.

While some of these marches are relatively calm and festive, violence often breaks out in the dark. Police on Thursday dispersed protesters who were trying to invade parliament in Quito. The clashes left one shot dead, a 39-year-old protester, according to the Alliance of Human Rights Organizations, bringing the death toll to four since the start of the crisis. It also reported 92 injuries and 94 arrests since June 13. The police, for their part, announced that 74 members of the security forces had been injured.

Read also: Indigenous man killed during protests in Ecuador

In the afternoon, several thousand natives first entered, shouting joy, the House of Culture (CCE) in Quito, requisitioned for several days by the police, a found AFP. This cultural center traditionally serves as a meeting point for indigenous people in the capital and its free access was one of the conditions for the demonstrators to begin negotiations.

“It’s a victory of the struggle!”, greeted megaphone in hand the indigenous leader Leonidas Iza, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the largest indigenous organization in the country.

Clashes between police and protesters

The government finally authorized the demonstrators to invest this symbolic place, “in the interest of dialogue and peace”, declared the Minister of the Government, Francisco Jiménez, in a video transmitted to the media. The “objective is to end the blockades of streets, violent demonstrations and attacks in different places”, added the minister, while the head of state Guillermo Lasso, diagnosed Wednesday positive for Covid-19, is forced to isolation.

Objective obviously missed, since shortly after, an imposing group of demonstrators, led by women, tried to enter the enclosure of the neighboring parliament.

The police deployed on the spot prevented them by using tear gas and stun grenades. The marchers responded with violence by throwing stones, fireworks and molotov cocktails.

The leader of the demonstrations, Leonidas Iza, who was there, judged that “it is a very bad sign when we had asked our base to make a peaceful march”. The crowd then retreated to a nearby park.

During the 2019 protests, demonstrators stormed the seat of government and briefly invaded parliament, set fire to the Finance Inspectorate building and attacked the premises of two media outlets. The natives had then thrown the responsibility on “infiltrators”.

Three Ecuadorian presidents overthrown under indigenous pressure

The natives left their rural communities eleven days ago, but did not arrive in Quito until Monday, hardening the standoff with the government. Prior to any negotiation, Conaie also demands the repeal of the state of emergency in force in six of the 24 provinces and in the capital, supported by a major security deployment and a night curfew. The government rejects this demand and assures that the demands of the demonstrators, just on fuel, would cost the State more than a billion dollars a year.

The conservative president in power for a year, sees in this revolt an attempt to overthrow him. Between 1997 and 2005, three Ecuadorian presidents had to leave power under pressure from the natives.

Read again: Indigenous protests in Ecuador: President accuses movement of wanting to ‘drive’ him out of power

In 2019, a previous wave of protests against the end of fuel price subsidies left 11 dead and thousands injured in clashes with police. The president at the time, Lenin Moreno, had been forced to reconsider economic measures negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

President Lasso can however count on the support of the military who warned the demonstrators on Tuesday, accusing them of representing a “serious danger” for democracy.

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