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Ecuador rejects Indigenous protesters’ dialogue conditions

QUITO, ECUADOR (AP) – Violent protests by Indigenous people demanding a variety of changes, including lower fuel prices, have paralysed Ecuador’s capital and other regions, but the government yesterday rejected their conditions for dialogue.

Quito, the capital, is experiencing food and fuel shortages after 10 days of demonstrations in which protesters at times have clashed with police. After officials rejected the conditions for negotiations, the United States government issued an advisory urging travellers to reconsider visiting the country due to “civil unrest and crime”.

The demonstrations are part of a national strike that the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities began June 14 to demand that gasoline prices be cut by USD0.45 a gallon to USD2.10, price controls for agricultural products and a larger budget for education. Protests have been especially violent in six provinces in the north-central part of the South American country.

The Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza on Tuesday demanded among other things that the government eliminate the state of emergency in those provinces and remove the military and police presence around places where protesters have gathered in Quito. But the Minister of Government yesterday said the government could not lift the state of emergency because it would leave “the capital defenseless”.

“This is not the time to put more conditions, it is not the time to demand greater demands, it is the time to sit down and talk, we are on the tenth day of the strike,” Minister Francisco Jiménez told a television network. “And we can’t keep waiting, the capital can’t keep waiting, the country can’t keep waiting.”

The protests have been characterised by intermittent roadblocks on the main roads in the six provinces, while in the capital, groups of protesters roam the city attacking vehicles and civilians and forcing the closure of businesses, some of which were looted. They have also punctured the wheels of buses, forcing passengers to walk.

Protesters march towards the presidential palace in Quito, Ecuador. PHOTO: AP