Quito, Jun 15 (EFE).- The leader of this week’s indigenous-led protests in Ecuador was released from jail ahead of a third day of demonstrations Wednesday over high fuel prices and conservative President Guillermo Lasso’s economic policies.
Even so, roadblocks were continuing to halt transportation in parts of the country’s Andean and Amazonian provinces, with the biggest disruptions occurring in Azuay, Bolivar, Cañar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Morona Santiago, Napo and Pichincha, the latter being among the most affected, according to the Integrated Security Service (ECU 911).
Blockades were set up in the northern and southern parts of Pichincha, where Quito is located, to disrupt access to the Ecuadorian capital.
In an area known as the Santa Rosa curve (southern Pichincha), Efe observed the use of heavy vehicles to block roads, with truckers taking advantage of the indigenous protest to press their own demands.
In the northern part of that province, demonstrators set up barricades using tree branches and burning tires.
One of the truckers’ representatives told Efe they are not part of the indigenous protests but are calling on the government to bolster security and improve fuel quality, among other demands.
He said they are regrouping in different locations and that their protest “will be gathering strength during the day.”
Protesters have caused damage to public and private property – including setting four police vehicles on fire in different parts of the country – since the demonstrations began on Monday, authorities say.
The protests intensified early Tuesday after the arrest of the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), Leonidas Iza, who was awarded conditional release on Tuesday night.
Judge Paola Bedon ruled via videoconference from the Andean town of Latacunga that Iza, the chief leader of the protests, had been legally detained in Cotopaxi province for blocking roads yet still ordered his conditional release.
As part of the ruling, she barred him from leaving the country and instructed him to report to authorities periodically.
During the hearing, one of Iza’s attorneys, Carlos Poveda, said his client had been arbitrarily detained and had not been informed of his constitutional rights at the time of his arrest.
The Interior Ministry denied those allegations.
Iza’s arrest angered Conaie, which issued a call for radicalizing the protests. Also Tuesday, numerous groups demonstrated in Latacunga to demand the leader’s release.
On Tuesday night, prior to the announcement of Iza’s release, members of indigenous groups began arriving in Ecuador’s capital to increase pressure on authorities.
The situation had changed though by early Wednesday in Quito, where only a small contingent of police could be seen at a popular protest site in the capital, Parque de El Arbolito. EFE