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Ecuador government, Indigenous leaders sign deal to end protests

QUITO (AFP) – Thousands of Indigenous protesters left the Ecuadoran capital of Quito on Thursday evening after their leaders and the government signed a deal that would cut fuel prices and end their cost-of-living demonstrations that largely paralysed the country for 18 straight days.

The agreement signed in Quito provides for a five-cent-per-gallon reduction in the price of diesel and gasoline on top of a 10-cent cut already conceded by the government.

“Very likely we are tired… so it’s time to go home,” protest leader Leonidas Iza told a crowd of some 4,000 demonstrators after announcing an end to the protests earlier in the day.

The Indigenous protesters funnelled out of the city peacefully in buses and trucks, many of them waving Ecuadoran and Indigenous multi-colour Wiphala flags.

President Guillermo Lasso, for his part, said on Twitter that the parties had achieved “the supreme value to which we all aspire: peace in our country”.

Indigenous protesters wave Wiphala and Ecuadorean flags as they demonstrate in Quito. PHOTO: AFP

Later, in a radio and television broadcast, he said it was “time to heal wounds, to overcome the division between Ecuadorians and unite in a single objective: to rebuild Ecuador”.

Fast-rising fuel prices were the catalyst for the protests called by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) and marked by burning roadblocks and sometimes violent clashes with the security forces.

Five civilians and a soldier have died since the protests started on June 13, hundreds were injured on both sides, and some 150 people have been arrested.

Signed by Conaie leader Iza and government minister Francisco Jimenez, the agreement foresees further negotiations between the two sides, an end to the disruptive roadblocks erected countrywide, and the lifting of a state of emergency in four of Ecuador’s 24 provinces.

It also provides for a review of government decrees on oil exploitation and mining in Indigenous lands.

An estimated 14,000 Ecuadorans – most of them in Quito – took part in the mass show of discontent against deepening hardship in an economy dealt a serious blow by the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday’s agreement provides for “the cessation of the mobilisations and the gradual return (of the demonstrators) to the territories” where they came from to join the protest.