Quito, Jun 21 (EFE).- A new round of disturbances erupted Tuesday in downtown Quito on the ninth day of anti-government protests in Ecuador, with indigenous demonstrators angered over the high cost of living clashing with riot police.
That violence occurred when groups of demonstrators were trying to make their way to El Arbolito park, the epicenter nearly three years ago of a wave of protests that brought the country to a standstill for 10 days in October 2019 and left 10 dead and 1,500 injured nationwide.
Security forces on Sunday morning occupied the House of Ecuadorian Culture, a building adjacent to the park, to prevent it from being used – as it was in 2019 – as housing for the thousands of indigenous protesters who have arrived in the capital from other provinces.
Lead protest organizer Leonidas Iza, head of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), Ecuador’s largest indigenous organization, has repeatedly urged demonstrators to refrain from violence or vandalism.
Even so, some protesters carried out an attack Tuesday on the Attorney General’s Office, whose headquarters is near the scene of the clashes.
The AG’s office issued a statement reporting that the building was under attack, urging police and the armed forces to bolster security and saying that sensitive case files were being studiously safeguarded.
Other incidents were reported near Quito’s Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE), which said demonstrators had committed acts of vandalism against its main building and that members of the National Police had entered without authorization.
The PUCE, which reported the destruction of a campus access gate, urged the parties to seek out a peaceful solution through dialogue.
Numerous roadblocks also were set up in other parts of the city, forcing Quito’s public transit bus operator to suspend service on Tuesday and announce that operations on Wednesday will depend on road and security conditions.
Thousands of indigenous protesters arrived in the capital on Monday from Andean provinces in northern, central and southern Ecuador to make their presence felt more strongly and defy the state of emergency decreed by the government in Pichincha – where Quito is located – and five other provinces.
Iza thus far has rejected repeated offers for talks with President Guillermo Lasso, who last weekend approved some of the demands put forth by CONAIE.
That indigenous movement remains unsatisfied, however, and still wants the government to freeze and reduce the price of all fuels, regulate the price of essential products, ensure better pay for farm producers and halt the expansion of mining operations.
Human rights organizations say the protests thus far have left one demonstrator dead and 61 others injured – 18 of them seriously – and 86 people detained.
Ecuador’s Interior Ministry says 61 police officers and around 10 soldiers have suffered different degrees of injuries. EFE