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Thousands of protesters flock to Quito, squared by police

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Indigenous people march in Quito against the government's decision to raise gas prices on 9 October in Ecuador. Carlos Noreiga / AP

The protest against Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, which has sharply increased the price of gasoline, continues in Quito. Several thousand Ecuadorian natives and peasants began to parade Wednesday, October 9 in the streets of the capital, squared by the police, during a large demonstration against the rise in the price decided by the government.

Protesters, who gather in the capital since Monday, were heading to the historic center, scene of violent clashes the previous days. On Tuesday, Parliament was briefly invaded. As the main procession progressed, with indigenous women armed with sticks at their head, a group of students and workers clashed with the police, and the police fired back with tear gas.

For several days, the natives, key players in this conflict, flock to the capital from the provinces of the country, on foot or on board pick-up, woolen poncho on the shoulders, traditional felt hat on the head and stick in hand. Unions and student organizations had to join the march, in a capital where classes had been suspended for several days and public transport was scarce.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Ecuador: the curfew around places of power in Quito

In January 2000, violent indigenous demonstrations, in which indigenous organizations had participated in a context of economic crisis, had brought down President Jamil Mahuad. In the recent past, Ecuador has already experienced a period of instability, with three presidents having been overthrown between 1997 and 2005 as a result of popular movements.

Attempt to reconcile

The incidents put pressure on the government of President Lenin Moreno, a 66-year-old liberal who came to power under the socialist banner. He ordered Tuesday a night curfew around places of power.

Moreno, who on Monday moved the government's headquarters to the country's economic capital, Guayaquil (southwest), had already declared a state of emergency for sixty days so that the armed forces could restore order. The curfew will have the same duration.

In an attempt to defuse the situation, the head of state on Tuesday opened the door for mediation by the United Nations and the Catholic Church. "There were reconciliations and we talked with some leaders" protesters, said Tuesday, Lenin Moreno.

Opposite, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the main representative body of the indigenous peoples of the country, has "Decided to continue the national mobilization against economic measures"according to the communique she published, which does not mention contacts with the government.

A protester during a clash with the Ecuadorian police on 9 October 2019.
A protester during a clash with the Ecuadorian police on 9 October 2019. MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP

Correa's opponent ready to return

The small Andean country has been rocked since early October by a social unrest since 2007, marked by blockades of roads and oil wells in the Amazon, sometimes violent demonstrations and strikes. The production losses of the state-owned company Petroamazonas stood Tuesday at 165,000 barrels a day, or 31% of the usual figures, according to the Ministry of Energy.

Ecuador, which announced last week its withdrawal from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), extracted some 531,000 barrels a day of crude oil between January and July 2019.

President Moreno's decision to cut fuel subsidies totaling $ 1.3 billion (Ecuador's economy is dollarized) came into effect on Thursday (October 3rd). In return, Ecuador can access credits from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $ 4.2 billion. This has resulted in fuel price increases of up to 123%. The liter has thus passed on average from 0.48 to 0.63 dollar, according to the website globlapetrolprices.com.

Read also Ecuador regains control of its oil and wants to reinstate OPEC

Lenin Moreno accused his predecessor, Rafael Correa (2007-2017), former ally turned political opponent, of having "Activated" a "Destabilization plan" with the help of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. "If it is necessary for me to be a candidate, I will be a candidate"Correa told the press in Brussels, where he has lived since he left office in 2017 after his third term.

The former socialist leader can not run for a fourth presidential term since a recent reform, he said consider a candidate for vice president.

The former Ecuadorian president, claimed by the justice of his country, estimated that the government of Lenin Moreno would try "Prevent (her) participation ". "What will they invent? That I have to go to jail. "

Read also In Ecuador, road blocks and protests continue

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