Ecuador.- Indigenous people clashed with the Police when they wanted to break into the Ecuadorian Congress, in the center of Quito, after the attempt by the Government of Guillermo Lasso to open the way for dialogue to resolve the wave of protests that has lasted 11 days and leaves four dead.
Indigenous demonstrators protesting the cost of living have again advanced on Ecuador’s capital. At the front marched women with their arms intertwined. Behind, thousands of indigenous people sought to break the uniformed picket guarding the National Assembly.
The policemen reacted with tear gas bombs and stun grenades, while the indigenous demonstrators responded with Molotov cocktails, fireworks rockets and stones.
The clashes, which spread to a neighboring park, left a 39-year-old protester dead from a firearm, according to the Alliance of Human Rights Organizations, which records four victims throughout the crisis.
In the morning, the right-wing President, Guillermo Lasso, had launched a first gesture of will for dialogue: he allowed some 5,000 protesters to enter the emblematic House of Culture, a symbolic place for indigenous peoples and which since 13 June was under control of the public force in the midst of the protests.
“It is a triumph of the struggle,” celebrated Leonidas Iza, president of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) of Ecuador and leader of the protests.
But the violent incursion of the indigenous people outside the Legislative seemed to dissipate the negotiation options, in an exhausted and semi-paralyzed Ecuador that counts daily losses of 50 million dollars.
“We make a call to continue weaving the paths that allow us to reconcile peace. Dialogue is the only way that guarantees consensus,” asked Fausto Salinas, commander of the Ecuadorian Police.
Under the slogan “Get out, Lasso, get out,” some 14,000 indigenous people are protesting in different parts of the country to demand relief for the high cost of living, such as reducing fuel prices, a moratorium on credits with private banks and subsidizing agricultural products.
In Quito, most of the marches are peaceful, but at night riots and clashes between the public force break out. Some 10,000 indigenous people who have come from their territories have been protesting in the capital of 3 million inhabitants since Monday.
“I cry to see so many people mistreated by this unhappy government,” lamented Cecilia, an 80-year-old retiree with an Ecuadorian flag and a sign with the slogan “Lasso liar.”
Worn out by the explosion, the capital is also the scene of counter-protests. In the afternoons, hundreds of high-end vehicles drive through a financial area blaring their horns. A march of white flags shouts “out Iza, out.”
“Here we are the bums who say that we are, that we are not producing and that is why there is a shortage, because the people of the countryside are here in rebellion,” said the indigenous leader Nayra Chalán in the middle of the crowd.
Harassed and isolated by Covid-19, the right-wing Lasso has not spoken out on the escalation of indigenous protests. The leaders of the demonstrations see in the announcement of contagion a smoke screen to delay the negotiations.
Although Quito is the main focus, the protests ignite in the rest of Ecuador, at the request of international organizations to stop the violence.
In the midst of the clashes, the indigenous leader Iza was surprised while giving an interview interrupted by loud explosions.
“This march was peaceful, let’s not let the people who are damaging this fight, who are damaging this march, infiltrate,” he later warned.
Last night, some 300 indigenous people forcibly occupied a power plant in southern Ecuador and detained its operators. The Government has not yet reported whether it regained control of the facilities or the fate of the officials, but it is known that the service was not interrupted.
The mobilizations also leave 92 injured and 94 detained since June 13, according to the Alliance of Organizations for Human Rights.
Lasso considers it unfeasible to comply with the demands of the protesters and describes the protest as an attempt to overthrow him.
Reducing fuel prices as the indigenous people claim would cost the State of Ecuador more than a billion dollars a year in subsidies, according to official figures.
Without much political backing, Lasso now has the support of the military who have closed ranks around his government.
In an attempt to quell discontent, the Government of Ecuador has announced other measures to no avail:
– Increase bonuses for the poorest 30 percent of the population (from 50 to 55 dollars).
– Condone debts of up to 3 thousand dollars with a state bank for farmers and peasants, among others.
What you should know
In 2019, the indigenous people staged protests that left 11 dead and more than a thousand injured throughout the country, as well as losses of 800 million dollars.