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Ecuadorians return to streets ahead of talks to end protests

World News | Published:

The protests have paralysed Ecuador’s economy.

Ecuador protests

Residents of Ecuador’s capital have ventured out into the streets despite a 24-hour military curfew.

They picked their way through piles of burnt tyres, chunks of pavement and smouldering tree trunks after a day of violent protests across Quito.

The government and indigenous protesters plan to begin negotiations aimed at defusing more than a week of demonstrations against proposals to remove fuel subsidies as part of an International Monetary Fund austerity package.

The protests have paralysed Ecuador’s economy and cut off more than half of the country’s production of oil, Ecuador’s most important export.

The United Nations and Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference said negotiations would begin between President Lenin Moreno’s government and the Confederation of Indigenous Nations, which has brought thousands of indigenous protesters to the capital and organised protests across the country.

Ecuador protests
Pedestrians walk among the debris of barricades set by anti-government protesters in Quito (Fernando Vergara/AP)

“We trust in the will of everyone to establish a dialogue in good faith and find a quick solution to the complex situation the country is living,” said the UN’s Ecuador office in a statement.

However, the protests have drawn in thousands of Ecuadorians from outside the indigenous minority and many said they would continue demonstrating despite the negotiations.

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Demonstrations in Quito took three distinct forms on Saturday, the most tumultuous in 10 days of protests against Mr Moreno’s austerity measures.

Thousands of indigenous people protested outside the National Assembly in the city centre. Front-line troops of young people fought police with stones, Molotov cocktails and improvised mortars.

Several dozen broke into the national comptroller office, smashing windows and setting the building on fire.

Elsewhere in the city, groups of masked men attacked media offices, setting fires before they were driven off by police.

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Lastly, across Quito, groups of neighbours blocked streets, burned tyres and banged pots and pans to protest against Mr Moreno’s austerity package.

Others, tired of the chaos, banged pots and pans to protest against the demonstrations and call for a return to normality.

Soldiers guard a street in Quito
Soldiers guard a street in Quito, Ecuador (Fernando Vergara/AP)

“Every citizen that disagrees with government decisions can protest in the right way but let’s not mix that up with vandalism and robbery,” said James Baez, a 78-year-old retired employee of an American tyre company. He said he supported Mr Moreno and the decision to impose a curfew.

On Sunday morning, soldiers had retaken control of the main area of the protests in Quito — the park and streets leading to the National Assembly and the national comptroller’s office.

Mr Moreno said the military would enforce the round-the-clock curfew in Quito and around critical infrastructure such as power stations and hospitals in response to the day’s violence.

It was the first such action imposed since a series of coups in the 1960s and 1970s, although there was little military or police presence on most Quito streets Sunday morning and thousands of people were out walking, driving and trying to run errands.

Mr Moreno said his government would address some concerns of protesters, studying ways to ensure resources reach rural areas and offering compensation for those who lost earnings because of the recent upheaval.

“We’ll negotiate with those who have decided to do so,” Mr Moreno said in remarks broadcast on radio and television. “The process is moving forward and I hope to give you good news soon, because different organisations and sectors have confirmed their willingness to talk.”

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