Police clashed with indigenous demonstrators at various areas in Ecuador's capital again on Friday. -AP
The indigenous group leading mass protests in Ecuador on Friday rejected an offer of direct talks from President Lenin Moreno to end days of deadly protests against fuel price hikes.
"The dialogue that he's seeking lacks credibility," the indigenous umbrella group CONAIE said in a statement, adding that it would negotiate with the government only when a decree to remove fuel subsidies has been "repealed."
Indigenous groups from disadvantaged communities in the Amazon basin and the Andes have spearheaded demands that Moreno reinstate fuel subsidies that were cut last week -- part of a deal his government struck to obtain a $4.2 billion loan from the IMF. Riot police clashed with indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador's capital on Friday, the 10th straight day of protests.
Demonstrators responded to volleys of tear gas with homemade mortars and fireworks launched through tubes, turning the area around the Congress building in Quito into a battleground.
Also arriving in the capital to protest were a thousand Amazon Indians, armed with spears. Road blocks were reported in 17 of Ecuador's 24 provinces, according to authorities. On Thursday, indigenous leaders had hardened their stance in the face-off, rejecting UN and Catholic Church-mediated talks, and calling for a "radicalization" of the protests.
The violence has brought much of the capital to a standstill since Monday and forced Moreno to relocate his government to Ecuador's second city, Guayaquil. The government declared a state of emergency for 60 days and deployed some 75,000 military and police, in addition to imposing a curfew in the vicinity of government buildings.
The end of the fuel subsidies has meant that prices shot up by as much as 120 percent from October 3. "If it weren't for us people from the countryside, city people, the rich, couldn't survive," said 52-year-old indigenous protester Maria Escobar as she called for the president's dismissal.
Diego de la Vega, a student who joined the indigenous crowd, said that "we don't just protest about gas, but about Moreno's entire agreement with the IMF, as it affects all of us." "All countries that have signed agreements with the IMF, it didn't turn out well for them, like Argentina for example," the 24-year-old said.
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