Mexico City.- The Ecuadorian Police dispersed this Tuesday with tear gas some 500 indigenous people who blocked an important avenue in Quito with tree branches, on the ninth day of protests against the Government.
Thousands of indigenous people arrived in the country’s capital on Monday to demand a reduction in fuel prices.
The group of about 500 indigenous people who clashed with the police left their place of lodging at the Salesian University and intended to reach the House of Ecuadorian Culture (CCE), which was taken over by the police in the midst of the state of exception that governs in six of the country’s 24 provinces, including Pichincha, whose capital is Quito.
To stop their advance, riot police fired tear gas canisters at the demonstrators, who with teary eyes from the gas dispersed and then regrouped.
The CCE has traditionally been the place that welcomes indigenous people who protest against the governments of the day.
“Today’s objective is to take over the House of Culture, shelter us there,” Wilson Mazabanda, a Kichwa-Panzaleo indigenous man who arrived on Monday from Cotopaxi (south), told AFP.
The main sources of protest were concentrated in the extreme north and south of the capital, while a smaller group was in the center of Quito, inside the state-owned Central University, although in many streets and avenues there were small groups burning tires and blocking the streets with mounds of earth.
Dozens of vehicles chased and blocked public transport buses to puncture their tires and force passengers to walk.
The Carondelet Palace, the seat of the national government, woke up strongly guarded by hundreds of police and military personnel, fences and barbed wire.
Given the conflict, the Ministry of Energy declared a state of force majeure for all hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation operators and all phases of the country’s hydrocarbon industry to avoid possible lawsuits for breach of contract.
The protests and the successive seizure of oil wells have forced the shutdown of nearly 609 production wells in the Amazon, with a daily production loss of some 30,000 barrels, equivalent to 17 million dollars.
On radio and television, the Minister of Defense, Luis Lara, stated that the Armed Forces view with great concern “the manipulation of social protests and the growth of violence by those who have rejected dialogue… to try to impose their requests on the State”.
“These actions go beyond citizen protest, it is a deliberate attempt to use armed violence to attack democracy, threaten institutions. The Armed Forces will not allow attempts to break the constitutional order.”
Since Monday of last week, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, the largest of its kind, has held a national strike for an indefinite period of time that has especially affected six provinces in the north-central Ecuador, demanding a reduction in the price of gasoline, the fixing of prices for agricultural products and a larger budget for education, among other claims.
It is expected that in the next few hours that organization will respond to the President, who sent a document with responses to the requests over the weekend.
The demonstrations have caused the intermittent blockade of roads preventing the passage of private vehicles and cargo, which has caused a shortage of food and fuel in some cities, including the capital.