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The tension is not easing in Ecuador, despite a gesture from the government which on Thursday opened the House of Culture in Quito to indigenous demonstrators who are mobilizing against the cost of living. In the evening, a group tried to enter the precincts of Parliament before being dispersed by the police.
Police dispersed demonstrators trying to invade Parliament in Quito on Thursday (June 23rd), on the eleventh day of indigenous protests against the cost of living that continue to rage in Ecuador.
Cries of joy, several thousand natives first entered the House of Culture (CCE) in Quito in the afternoon, requisitioned for several days by the police, noted the AFP. This cultural center traditionally serves as a meeting point for indigenous people in the capital and its free access was one of the conditions for the demonstrators to begin negotiations.
“It’s a victory of the struggle!”, Hailed megaphone in hand the indigenous leader Leonidas Iza, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the largest indigenous organization in the country.
The government finally authorized the demonstrators to invest this symbolic place, “in the interest of dialogue and peace”, declared the Minister of the Government, Francisco Jiménez, in a video transmitted to the media. The “objective is to end the blockades of streets, violent demonstrations and attacks in different places”, added the minister, while the head of state Guillermo Lasso, diagnosed Wednesday positive for Covid-19, is forced to isolation.
“Bad sign” ?
Objective obviously missed, since shortly after, an imposing group of demonstrators, led by women, tried to enter the enclosure of the neighboring Parliament. The police deployed on the spot prevented them by using tear gas and stun grenades. The marchers responded with violence by throwing stones, fireworks and molotov cocktails. The crowd then retreated to a nearby park.
The leader of the demonstrations, Leonidas Iza, who was there, judged that “it is a very bad sign when we had asked our base to make a peaceful march”.
During the 2019 protests, demonstrators stormed the seat of government and briefly invaded Parliament, set fire to the building of the Inspectorate of Finance and attacked the premises of two media outlets. The natives had then rejected the responsibility on “infiltrators”.
Nearly 14,000 demonstrators are mobilized across the country to protest against the rising cost of living and demand in particular a drop in fuel prices according to the police, who estimate their number at nearly 10,000 in the capital Quito.
Prior to any negotiation, Conaie also demands the repeal of the state of emergency in force in six of the 24 provinces and in the capital, supported by a major security deployment and a night curfew. The government rejects this demand and assures that the protesters’ demands, just on fuels, would cost the state more than a billion dollars a year.
The conservative president in power for a year, sees in this revolt an attempt to overthrow him. Between 1997 and 2005, three Ecuadorian presidents had to leave power under pressure from the natives.
The demonstrations have left three dead, 92 injured and 94 people arrested since the start of the crisis, according to a report Thursday from the Alliance of Human Rights Organizations.