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Ecuador gov't bracing for arrival of thousands of indigenous protestors

ECUADOR PROTESTS (ADDS VIDEO) | 07 de octubre de 2019

By Daniela Brik

Quito, Oct 7 (efe-epa).- Indigenous groups in Ecuador are preparing a huge demonstration in Quito to protest the Lenin Moreno government's recent economic decisions, while assaults, looting and protests continue in various spots around the country.

About 20,000 members of the indigenous tribes around the country are expected to take part in a demonstration scheduled for Wednesday in th capital along with other social groups, some of whom began arriving in the southern part of the Quito metro area on Monday.

The president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), Jaime Vargas, said Monday that until the great march takes place there will be no dialogue with the government, adding that this is "a joint struggle with the social sectors to defend the great interests of the Ecuadoran people."

"As long as my people have not arrived in ... Quito, all avenues of dialogue are closed," the indigenous leader warned in a press conference at which he was accompanied by leaders of the United Workers Front (FUT) and other union organizations.

Meanwhile, the national president of FUT, Ecuador's main union grouping, Mesias Tatamuez, established as a condition for negotiations that the government must first "repeal the measures and later we'll sit down to make new laws."

Among the measures adopted by Moreno and his administration within the context of a credit line agreement with the International Monetary Fund is the elimination of the subsidy on fuel, which has put the social groups on a war footing given the result that it will increase the costs of all production and all prices of goods in the market.

Regarding the holding of a group of soldiers by groups in the country's Andean region, Vargas said that "they are eating well and playing sports," although he not provide any details about the number of soldiers being held and said only that their release is in the hands of the community authority and not Conaie.

Moreno on Sunday evening adopted a vehement tone in calling upon the indigenous groups to return to the negotiation table, saying that his government will not allow situations of violence like those over the past few days.

"I'm always ready for dialogue, to extend my hand to decent people, to honest people who really want to change the country. I'm ready for dialogue with our indigenous brothers," he said, calling upon the indigenous leaders not to let themselves be used by those "who may take advantage of (you) to seek chaos."

Besides the political statements, on the ground the highway blockades, large gatherings of protesters and looting have continued.

For instance, in the Andean province of Cotopaxi, a flower-growing company and a dairy were the targets on Monday of acts of vandalism and looting.

Also, highways leading to Quito and to the Mariscal Sucre international airport were blocked with burning tires and dumptrucks in the Carapungo sector, and by picketers in Calderon and San Miguel del Comun.

In the coastal city of Guayaquil, which is considered to be the country's economic center, taxi drivers blocked the normal circulation of traffic along the most important avenues and the seaside boulevard.

And on the social networks, videos abound showing looting that occurred over the weekend in the Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas market and others.

Despite the fact that the government is trying to appear calm and in control of the situation in its various statements, the fact that the air force is setting up staging areas to transport products to markets, like in the southern city of Cuenca, clearly shows that five days of protests have caused supply shortages of some items in various spots around the country.

The presidential chief of staff, Juan Sebastian Roldan, on Monday called on indigenous leaders for prudence and accused "organized Correism" (supporters of former President Rafael Correa, who governed from 2007-2017) of recent acts of sabotage.

"Those who are doing that would like to take Ecuador to Venezuela. This is organized Correism," he said.

He said that 467 people were arrested at demonstrations and disturbances, including some who threatened other citizens for standing by and watching the marches peacefully and not joining the protests.

"It's one thing to demonstration your criticism of the government, they have the right and possibly the duty to do that, if you're in opposition (to it), but what's happening is something different," the chief of staff said.

The United Nations has called on Ecuadoran authorities to guarantee the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully and emphasized that any use of force by security forces must be "proportionate."

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