Published: Fri, October 11, 2019

Ecuador relocates government's office as protests rage

Ecuador relocates government's office as protests rage

Indigenous-led protesters began a national strike in Ecuador on Wednesday after President Lenin Moreno refused to step down or overturn anti-austerity measures that have triggered the worst unrest in a decade.

Protests in Ecuador have been ongoing since the country's government passed economic reforms in the first week of October, specifically doing away with a long-upheld subsidy on fuel, causing a 100 percent increase in prices, according to reports.

Video from a local journalist shows several people throwing tear gas canisters back at police as hundreds of people rallied in the streets near the Legislative Palace on Tuesday.

On Oct. 3, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno declared a nationwide 60-day state of emergency and said he took the measure "to avoid chaos" and protect the safety of citizens.

It said scores of indigenous protesters looted the warehouses of dairy company Parmalat Ecuador in Cotopaxi province on Monday, injuring some workers there.

Moreno accused political opponents of orchestrating an attempted coup and blamed associates of Correa of infiltrating the protests as part of a plot to topple his government, without providing evidence.

Some protesters threw stones at security forces, who responded with tear gas.

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno declared the curfew after nearly a week of violent anti-austerity protests in the Latin American country.

The subsidies were costing the government $1.3 billion a year.

The military's backing is key for Moreno, who said late Tuesday that his government is negotiating with indigenous groups in a bid to quell the discontent.

"The only response is dialogue and firmness at the same time", said presidential secretary Juan Roldan, inviting the UN, Catholic Church or university rectors to help start talks.

"These incidents of vandalism and violence demonstrate there is some organized political intention to destabilize the government and break constitutional law, break democratic order", Moreno claimed during Monday's televised announcement.

Protests erupted last Thursday when the government cut fuel subsidies as part of a package of economic reforms in keeping with a $4.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

According to Reuters, seven Latin American countries, including Peru, Colombia and Argentina, stand with Moreno.

Correa's office rejected the allegations in a statement, while Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, Maduro's US -backed rival, threw his support behind Moreno, accusing Maduro for being responsible for the unrest.

"They are such liars".

The president says the dialogue is hard because so many indigenous groups are involved, yet he will not resign despite widespread pressure.

Tens of thousands of people, led by indigenous leaders, are expected to again bring Ecuador to a standstill today in massive ongoing anti-government protests.

Though he enjoys the support of businessmen and the military, Moreno's popularity has sunk to under 30% - compared with 70% after his election - and Ecuador has a volatile history.

"Correa has a direct interest in forcing Moreno out, not just as political revenge for Moreno's "betrayal" but in an attempt to dodge multiple judicial investigations now underway against him and several former lieutenants".

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