Quito, Jun 22 (EFE).- At least 15,000 mostly indigenous anti-government protesters marched Wednesday to the area of Ecuador’s capital that is home to the Carondelet presidential palace, which is being heavily guarded to deter potential attempts to breach the premises.
Efe observed that the protesters, who had begun their march at the entrance to Quito’s historic center, were advancing peacefully and shouting slogans such as “el pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido” (the people united will never be defeated).
The demonstrators were expected to arrive at Plaza de Santo Domingo and take part in a ritual to commemorate Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun in the Kichwa language), one of the main festivals on the Andean agricultural calendar.
Separately, another group of demonstrators marched along several streets of north-central Quito and in the financial district on the 10th day of the protests, which were organized by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), that South American country’s largest indigenous organization.
Both men and women could be seen marching Wednesday in Quito, many of them carrying Ecuadorian flags and making loud noises with vuvuzelas (plastic horns made famous by South African soccer fans).
CALL FOR DIALOGUE
The protests continued Wednesday while conservative President Guillermo Lasso’s administration waits for Conaie’s leader, Leonidas Iza, to heed a call to dialogue issued by more than 300 civil society organzations. Technical support for those talks is to be provided by the European Union and the United Nations.
The government declared a state of emergency for the Andean provinces of Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua and Chimborazo and the Amazonian province of Pastaza in a bid to rein in indigenous protests that have now descended in force on downtown Quito.
The indigenous demonstrators are demanding the lifting of the state of emergency and an end to repression of the protests as a precondition for joining the talks.
They also are calling on the government to take a series of steps to improve their quality of life, including reducing the high cost of fuel, putting in place price controls for basic products, impeding privatizations and preventing companies from making rapid changes to their workforce.
ATTACK ON POLICE STATION
Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said Wednesday that three police were retained by demonstrators in Puyo, capital of Pastaza province, and that the whereabouts of 18 other officers in that Amazonian city is unknown following an attack there by indigenous protesters on a police station.
In Puyo, “inebriated individuals formed large mobs” that blocked people from receiving treatment at medical facilities and barred the passage of ambulances and vehicles carrying grocery supplies, Carrillo said, adding that “the level of shortages in the city is already intolerable.”
He said two groups of protesters formed at around 6 pm on Tuesday – one seeking dialogue and another from different Kichwa and Shuar indigenous communities that took “radical” and “absolutely irrational” action targeting civilians and law enforcement personnel with explosives and firearms.
Carrillo added that the violent group set fire to the police station in downtown Puyo and torched 18 vehicles that had been parked on the premises. EFE