Ecuador's President Places Nation's Capital Under Curfew, Military Restrict Movement Across Country

Reuters  Henry Romero

Reuters Henry Romero

Anti-government protesters paraded captive police officers on a stage yesterday, defying Ecuadorian authorities who are seeking dialogue with opponents, particularly indigenous groups, after deadly unrest that was triggered by fuel price hikes.

"I have ordered the Armed Forces Joint Command to immediately undertake all the necessary measures and operations", Mr Moreno said.

Offering some hope of resolution, the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador said on its Twitter account that after internal discussion "we have made a decision to participate in direct dialogue" with Moreno.

Moreno earlier Friday proposed the direct talks as the protests stretched into a 10th day.

"If it weren't for us people from the countryside, city people, the rich, couldn't survive", said 52-year-old indigenous protester Maria Escobar as she called for the president's dismissal.

"We recognize the hard decisions that the Government of Ecuador has taken to advance good governance and promote sustainable economic growth", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

"We're not going to talk behind closed doors".

The abolition of fuel subsidies which triggered mass protests in early October was a part of the Ecuadorian government's austerity deal with the International Monetary Fund to be eligible for a Dollars 4.2 billion loan.

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Moreno said that those behind the acts of violence and vandalism in the protests "are drug traffickers, the criminals, the Latin Kings (the largest gang group in Ecuador), and the correistas (supporters of Ecuador's former President Rafael Correa)".

Ecuador's indigenous groups make up a quarter of the country's 17.3 million people.

The back-to-back announcements came as the highland capital of Quito was rocked by a tenth day of clashes over Moreno's austerity plan, a key part of his efforts to rein in the fiscal deficit after signing a $4.2 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Indigenous protesters are playing a key role in the opposition to the Government, as they have done in the past due to their traditional grievances as a minority. But it released a video on Twitter in which Moreno is heard describing a country that regains peace and prosperity.

Downtown Quito resembled a war zone as plumes of tear gas clouded streets littered with bricks and small fires and groups of people huddled behind walls and makeshift barricades for protection.

At least six people died, 937 others were injured, and 1,121 people were arrested during protests, Defensoria del Pueblo, a government auditor, said on Twitter. More than a 1,100 people have been arrested and almost 1,000 wounded, it added.

The protests have halted activity in much of the southern end of the capital and prompted Moreno to temporarily move the seat of government to the Pacific port city of Guayaquil.

Mr Moreno served Mr Correa as vice president before he become president and the two men went through a bitter split as Mr Moreno pushed to curb public debt amassed on Mr Correa's watch.

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