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Ecuador comes to a standstill after two weeks of protests over cost of living crisis | Ecuador

Ecuador has come to a near standstill after two weeks of tumultuous protests over a spike in fuel and food prices, as global inflation fueled discontent over rising inequality in Latin America.

At least five people were killed when demonstrators blocked roads, set fire to vehicles, and threw stones, and police responded with tear gas in the days-long clashes. Ecuador’s health ministry said two people died in ambulances that were delayed due to road blockades. 12 police officers were reported injured.

Conaie, Ecuador’s powerful Indigenous federation, began protests two weeks ago that put 10 demands amid the rising cost of living. These include freezing fuel prices, delaying bank loans, fertilizer subsidies, and no mining on Indigenous land.

Conaie’s leader, Leonidas Iza, rejected dialogue on Friday, citing previous failed attempts, despite Ecuador’s conservative president Guillermo Lasso trying to hold table talks last week, according to a letter seen by the Guardian.

“We told the president we weren’t going to have another dialogue that would be ridiculed and mistreated,” Iza said by phone from Ecuador on Friday.

“[The government] He portrayed the indigenous movement as an internal enemy.” “We demanded this instead of dialogue. [Lasso] publicly responds to the list of demands.”

Clashes broke out in Quito on Thursday night as the government handed control of La Casa de la Cultura, a cultural center, to Indigenous and peasant farmer protesters from the Andes and Amazon. It is the same auditorium occupied by the movement. October 2019 when nationwide protests against cutting fuel subsidies angered the country.

On Friday, Lasso explained in a televised speech that “Mr. Iza’s real intention was to overthrow the government” and that the Indigenous leader “can no longer control the situation.” “The violence perpetrated by the leaked criminals is out of control,” he said.

City dwellers and Indigenous people took to the streets to protest the government's austerity measures.
City dwellers and Indigenous people took to the streets to protest the government’s austerity measures. Photo: Martin Bernetti / AFP / Getty Images

Iza said Lasso was trying to turn the protests into a “political issue” because he couldn’t fix the issues. A state of emergency remained in effect in six provinces, including the capital Quito.

Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas is among the growing signs of violence Amnesty InternationalHe said their investigations showed that the death of a protester last Tuesday “was caused by the excessive use of force by security force agents, most likely police officers”.

The government’s austerity measures, which include tax hikes and cutting fuel subsidies as part of a $6.5 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund, have been exacerbated by the economic collapse. Covid-19 pandemic and rising costs of fuel, cooking oil, bread and fertilizer due to global inflation.

Sonia Guamangate, an Indigenous woman from Samanga in the volcanic Cotopaxi region, left two children at home to join tens of thousands of protesters marching from the countryside to the capital.

“Prices have increased in the city, but the money we get for our agricultural products remains the same,” he complained.

“Sometimes they pay as little as $5 or $6. quintal [100kg] potatoes. “It’s a year’s work for some of us,” he said.

“They call us ignorant Indians. We are not ignorant; We provide the city’s food.”

City dwellers also took to the streets of Quito due to the rising cost of living. Mechanical engineer Miguel Terán, whose bus and taxi drivers were unable to go to work due to barricades and strikes, joined the march.

“There is a clamor among the public, especially among those who have no job,” he said. Unemployment skyrocketed in the pandemic and recovery was slow, with only 33.2% of Ecuadorians formally employed and 22.1% underemployed. Ecuador statistical institute.

“It is very difficult to live with all the prices so high. Fuel prices have gone up, so all essentials have gone up,” he said.

Estefany González, a Venezuelan nurse who works as a caregiver in Quito, was handing out red and white balloons with “paz” meaning peace on them during protests last week.

“I went out to the street to give some love,” said the immigrant, who struggled to reach his 97-year-old charge due to the turmoil.

“We can’t go to work without transportation, and we don’t eat without work,” he said. “The fees have not increased, but the food cart is twice as expensive.”

Lasso, a right-leaning, pro-business ex-banker, is beset by woes from a stalled government agenda, recession, and an unprecedented rise in violent crime, one year into his term. Twice as many murders in 2021 as in the previous year – and a series brutal prison massacres.

“A very weak government with many blunders. He doesn’t like public support,” said Maria-Paz Jervis, dean of the School of Social Sciences and Law at Quito’s SEK International University. She added that after public austerity, “the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is shrinking,” due to low oil prices, the country’s main export.

“There is absolutely nothing for the poorest,” Iza said, as the business elite receive bailouts from the government in the wake of the pandemic.

“The crisis must be undertaken by all Ecuadorians, not just the poor,” he said.

Additional reporting by Carla Valdiviezo in Quito

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