International

Ecuador protest talks set for Sunday as capital locks down

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A first meeting between Ecuador’s president and indigenous leaders will take place on Sunday, the United Nations said, after Lenin Moreno ordered a curfew and military control in the capital to try to quell deadly, anti-austerity protests.

The rolling demonstrations have left six people dead and nearly 2,100 wounded or detained, according to authorities, with protesters on Saturday targeting a television station and a newspaper as well as setting fire to the comptroller general’s office.

Sunday’s meeting will be held in the capital Quito, the UN and Catholic Church said in a joint statement.

“We put our trust in the goodwill of all to establish a dialogue in good faith and find a quick solution to the complicated situation in the country,” they added.

The crisis broke out at the start of October after Moreno ordered fuel subsidies cut as part of a deal struck by his government to obtain a $4.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

CONAIE, the indigenous umbrella group leading the protests, had previously rejected an offer of dialogue and said the talks would focus on “the repeal or revision of the decree” that has left consumers paying more than double for fuel.

Ecuador’s indigenous groups make up a quarter of the country’s 17.3 million people. Thousands from disadvantaged communities in the Amazon and the Andes have traveled to Quito where they are spearheading demands that the subsidies continue.

Demonstrators on Saturday ransacked and set fire to the building housing the comptroller general’s office, which was shrouded in thick smoke after being attacked with fire bombs.

The prosecutor’s office said 34 people were arrested.

Nearby, protesters built barricades in front of the National Assembly building as police fired tear gas at them, according to AFP journalists.

The Teleamazonas TV channel interrupted its regular broadcast to air images of broken windows, a burned vehicle and heavy police presence on the scene.

“For about half an hour, we were under attack. They threw stones at us, forced open the doors and threw Molotov cocktails,” presenter Milton Perez said.

AFP

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