© Reuters. Protesters holding makeshift shields march during an anti-government demonstration amid a standoff between President Guillermo Lasso’s government and largely indigenous protesters demanding an end to emergency measures, in Quito, Ecuador, June 23, 20
By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO (Reuters) – The Ecuadorian government agreed on Thursday to a request by indigenous protesters who staged 11 days of protests, giving them access to a cultural center, but violent clashes during the marches continued.
Concern over fuel, food and other basic commodity prices has exploded into sometimes violent protests across the country since June 13, prompting President Guillermo Lasso to declare a state of exception in six provinces. , including that of Quito, the capital.
The protests – longer and bigger than the marches over fuel prices in October last year – are testing Lasso’s ability to revive the economy and revive jobs.
Lasso has a contentious relationship with the National Assembly, whose lawmakers have blocked his proposals, and he has struggled to contain rising violence he blames on drug gangs.
On Thursday afternoon, the government allowed thousands of protesters into the headquarters of a major cultural organization and withdrew security forces. In exchange, they demanded that people and goods such as food and medicine be allowed to circulate freely.
“It is not possible to lift the state of exception,” government minister Francisco Jimenez told local radio early Thursday, referring to another demand from protesters.
The government is complying with other protesters’ demands, he said, including subsidized fertilizers, cancellation of bank debts and increased budgets for health and education.
“We did not come here for people to die, for people to be injured,” said Leonidas Iza, the leader of the CONAIE indigenous group.
Despite the cultural center’s gesture, clashes between protesters and security forces continued in Quito on Thursday afternoon, and a large group of counter-protesters gathered in the north of the city to demand an end to the blockades.
Protesters entered horticultural farms and oil blocks, causing damage in places and negatively impacting crude production.
The state oil company Petroecuador announced that its production had almost halved due to the protests.
“We have lost production plants, secondary pipelines, gathering stations, and the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline (SOTE) has no more crude to pump,” Petroecuador director Italo Cedeno told the radio. local.
Protest leaders have denounced police brutality during protests, with a protester identified as Byron Guatatoca being killed after being hit in the head with a tear gas canister.
Another protester was killed last week after falling into a ravine. The Health Ministry said two people died in ambulances delayed by roadblocks.
The president tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday evening, according to the government.