Pressured by a protest that has now lasted 11 days, the government of Ecuador Thursday opened the way to dialogue with the indigenous people who gather by the thousands in Quito to ask for relief from the cost of living.
President William Lassoisolated by covid, gave in to one of the protesters’ requests and ordered the military to withdraw from the House of Culture, a symbolic place for indigenous peoples located in the center of the Ecuadorian capital.
Look: National Strike in Ecuador: Hundreds of indigenous people take power plant in Tungurahua
Waving flags and with shouts of joy, a large march entered the compound this Thursday that was under the control of the troops within the framework of the state of exception that governs six of the 24 provinces in Quito.
”It is a triumph of the fight”said the indigenous leader Leonidas Isa with a megaphone in hand while advancing towards the agora of the cultural center, where they will define the steps to follow in this crisis that leaves three protesters dead and dozens injured and detained.
The government allowed the passage of the crowd “for the sake of dialogue and peace”, assured Francisco Jiménez, Minister of Government.
The “purpose (is) that road closures, violent demonstrations, and attacks in different places cease”he added.
In Quito, most of the marches are peaceful, but at night riots and clashes with the security forces break out.
Some 14,000 indigenous people mobilized in various parts of the country to demand a reduction in the cost of fuel and a moratorium on credits with private banks, among actions that cushion the cost of living.
“I cry to see so many people mistreated by this unhappy government,” Lamented to AFP Cecilia, an 80-year-old retiree with a flag of Ecuador and a sign with the slogan ‘lasso liar’.
On Wednesday night, some 300 indigenous people forcibly occupied a power plant in the south of Ecuador and retained their operators. However, the service was not interrupted. As of noon, the government had not reported whether it had regained control of the facilities or about the fate of the officials.
In a dollarized economy where fuels are subsidized, the increase in gasoline and diesel increased freight costs. The indigenous people allege that they are harvesting at a loss.
In the House of Culture, the indigenous people define the steps to follow. “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 revealed here”said indigenous leader Nayra Chalán on a platform.
Under the slogan ‘get out, Lasso, get out’ thousands of people keep their pulse on the streets of Quito, while the government gives in little by little.
The president tested positive for covid on Wednesday, but protest leaders see the announcement as a smokescreen to delay negotiations.
According to official figures, reducing fuel prices as the indigenous people claim would cost the State more than 1,000 million dollars a year in subsidies.
lasso He considers it unfeasible and describes the protest as an attempt to overthrow him. Not surprisingly, the country gained a reputation for being ungovernable after the abrupt departure of three presidents between 1997 and 2005 in the face of social pressure.
The government has announced other measures to try to placate the discontent, such as increasing bonuses for the poorest 30% of the population, from 50 to 55 dollars. It also forgave debts of up to $3,000 with a state bank for farmers and peasants.
The mobilizations have left three dead, 92 injured and 94 detained since June 13, according to the Alliance of Organizations for Human Rights.
In 2019, indigenous people staged marches that left 11 dead and more than 1,000 injured throughout the country, as well as losses of 800 million dollars.
Without much political backing, lasso For now, he has the support of the military that closed ranks around his government.