Ecuador imposes curfew after protests push government out of capital
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno on Tuesday ordered a curfew around government buildings after six days of violent anti-austerity protests that have pushed his administration out of the capital Quito and brought hundreds of arrests.
‘We are the people’
Following tactics that have toppled previous governments, thousands of indigenous demonstrators have flooded the highland capital. Some burst through security cordons to briefly enter the National Assembly on Tuesday, waving flags, pumping their fists and chanting: "We are the people!"
Elsewhere in Quito and other flashpoints, masked and stick-wielding protesters hurled stones and battled with security forces, who responded with tear gas. The clashes injured 19 civilians and 43 police officers.
Government capital relocated to Guayaquil
Facing the biggest challenge to his 2-1/2-year rule, Moreno has refused to reinstate fuel subsidies he recently cut and ruled out stepping down.
Moreno has declared a state of emergency and relocated government operations to the coastal city of Guayaquil where there has been less trouble.
Moreno seeks mediation from the U.N.
The government is seeking mediation from the United Nations or Roman Catholic Church. Moreno has received "firm backing" for his handling of the unrest from seven Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Peru, according to Peru's foreign ministry.
Protests erupted after government cut fuel subsidies
Protests erupted last Thursday when the government cut fuel subsidies as part of a package of reforms, in keeping with a $4.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.
Moreno told Teleamazonas the measures would help Ecuador rein in an "immense" fiscal deficit he inherited from leftist predecessor Rafael Correa, whom he accused of misusing public funds and leaving behind a raft of unfinished or unneeded construction projects.
"That's why I understand that God and the people have put me in this place, to solve these problems," Moreno said. "All we need is a little bit of understanding from the Ecuadorian people."
Almost 680 people arrested
Indigenous groups and others have been barricading roads with burning tires, rocks and branches. Police have deployed armoured vehicles and water cannons.
Almost 680 people have been arrested, authorities say, including a legislator who supports Correa.
Moreno has accused Correa, his one-time mentor and boss when he was Vice-President, of seeking a coup with the help of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.
Government buildings attacked overnight
With protesters swarming around Quito, various government buildings were attacked overnight, authorities said, adding to looting and the destruction of ambulances and police vehicles in recent days.
In one incident, two people appeared to have fallen from a bridge during confrontations between police and protesters. Video on social media showed their bodies lying motionless, and the government promised an investigation. Indigenous groups have also captured some soldiers.
Unrest could result in loss of country’s crude oil production
The unrest has affected oil output in the OPEC member. State-run Petroamazonas estimates it could lose about 188,000 barrels per day, or more than a third of its crude production, due to unrest at its facilities.
"There are groups bent on causing chaos and confrontation, endangering democratic order," the government said in a statement.
Dialogue was necessary, it added, citing possible measures to compensate for higher fuel prices, such as credit lines for farmers and transport cooperatives.
Moreno’s popularity sinks to less than 30%
Although he enjoys the support of business and the military, Moreno's popularity has sunk to less than 30 per cent, compared with 70 per cent after his election.
Indigenous-led protests brought down three presidents in the years before Correa's rule.
Moreno receives international backing
Seven Latin American countries accused Maduro's "regime" in Venezuela of seeking to destabilise Ecuador and expressed their backing for Moreno.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom many nations recognize as president, also accused Maduro of financing the Ecuador protests.