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Ecuador’s president survives impeachment vote as talks to end protests falter

QUITO (AFP) – Ecuador’s President survived an impeachment vote on Tuesday, as negotiations to end more than two weeks of cost-of-living protests by Indigenous groups were suspended following the death of a soldier.

The opposition-led congress had sought to remove right-wing President Guillermo Lasso over “the serious political crisis and internal commotion” caused by the protests.

But the motion garnered only 80 of the 92 votes needed, according to results read aloud by the Parliament’s secretary, Alvaro Salazar, in a virtual session broadcast on social media.

“In spite of the coup attempts, today the country’s institutions prevailed,” Lasso said after the vote. “It is evident who works for the political mafias. Meanwhile, we continue to work for Ecuador.”

Earlier in the day, Lasso had accused Indigenous protest leader Leonidas Iza of self-serving politics, saying: “We will not negotiate with those who hold Ecuador hostage.”

Iza’s powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), in turn, accused the government of “authoritarianism”, and said Lasso would bear the consequences for “his hawkish policy”.

On Tuesday morning, the military said a soldier died and five police and seven soldiers were injured in an attack on a tanker truck escort in the country’s east.

Indigenous people holding makeshift shields outside the Matovelle high school in Quito. PHOTO: AFP

It said a group armed with “spears and guns” attacked uniformed personnel protecting an early-morning convoy of tankers headed for the so-called ITT block of oil fields in Orellana province, where more than a billion barrels are stored.

Interior Minister Patricio Carillo expressed condolences to the family of fallen soldier Jose Chimarro in a tweet, and described the attackers as “violent demonstrators”.

The Secretary of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro also denounced the attack, saying on Twitter that “protests should be peaceful and democratic”.

A second day of talks with Indigenous representatives scheduled for Tuesday morning failed to get under way as negotiators from the government did not show up.

Mediator and President of the National Assembly Virgilio Saquicela announced that the government was “not present” as it was “conducting an analysis” of the early-morning events.

Iza referred to a “brutal attack” but said there was no proof protesters were responsible.

Lasso, meanwhile, touted “the efforts we have made to establish a fruitful and sincere dialogue”.

“But we will not sit down again to dialogue with Leonidas Iza, who only defends his political interests and not those of his base,” he added.

Tuesday’s fatality came on top of five demonstrators dead and hundreds of civilians and security personnel wounded in clashes between the security forces and protesters blockading key roads and disrupting supply lines.

Some 150 people have been arrested, according to observers.

At night, protesters clashed with public forces again in the north of the capital, setting two police stations on fire.