curfew around places of power in Quito

President Lenin Moreno has moved the seat of government in the port city of Guayaquil.

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Members of the security forces posted near the Parliament building in Quito on 8 October. MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP

On foot and in anger, thousands of Indians arrived in the Ecuadorian capital, where a gigantic demonstration was scheduled on Wednesday, 9 October. President Lenin Moreno left Quito. On Monday, as protesters protesting against a sharp rise in gas prices began to encircle his palace, the head of state chose to settle in Guayaquil, the second largest city in the country, with all his government. Moreno reported his decision on television, surrounded by the military high command. Since Monday night, in the center of Quito heavily militarized, armored vehicles guard an empty palace.

So it's from Guayaquil that Mr. Moreno decreed Tuesday night a partial curfew in Quito. Freedom of movement is now restricted from 20 hours to 5 hours in "Areas adjacent to buildings and strategic facilities", in clear around the important public buildings. On Monday, the protesters, armed with sticks, had forced the building of the "Contraloria General", a body of control of the civil service. The next day, they managed to penetrate into the chamber of the National Assembly – also deserted – before being driven out by the police.

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"Attempted coup"

Ecuador has been paralyzed for six days now. The transport sector first responded to the announcement of the package of adjustment measures adopted in agreement with the IMF. Buses, taxis and trucks – in a country where all goods transport is by road – ceased operations on Thursday. The state of emergency decreed by the government for sixty days from the beginning of the strike helped to ignite the spirits. After the unions and students, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) joined the movement on Friday. "All roads, all tracks are blocked by trees, stones, piles of earth or burning tires", says Angela Camargo, a resident of the Imbabura region who, since the beginning of the movement, is stuck 100 kilometers from her home. Classes have been suspended in all schools in the country.

"Elections must be advanced in case of serious social unrest, like the one we know," said former president Rafael Correa

The country of 15 million people had not experienced such popular mobilization since 2005, when the street forced the resignation of a president in office for the third time in less than ten years. We understand that Mr. Moreno feels safer in Guayaquil. "His decision is clever in the short term," judges Professor Simon Pachano. But the head of state takes the risk of stirring up the wrath of Indian protesters who find themselves in Quito without interlocutor. "His departure could be interpreted as a sign of weakness," adds the expert in politics. The management of the crisis by Lenin Moreno is debated. "What is happening these days in Ecuador is not a social manifestation of discontent with a government decision", affirmed the head of the State, denouncing the presence in the processions "Paid and organized individuals who act with the sole intention of attacking and damaging".


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