QUITO: Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno on Friday (Oct 11) proposed direct talks with indigenous leaders after deadly protests against fuel price hikes stretched into a 10th day.
"It is essential to stop the violence," Moreno said in a brief address on television. "I call on the leaders to talk directly with me."
Indigenous groups from disadvantaged communities in the Amazon 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 US$4.2 billion loan from the IMF.
"The country must restore calm. Let the country know that we have the will to hold a dialogue," Moreno said.
On Thursday, indigenous leaders had hardened their stance in the stand-off, rejecting UN and Catholic Church-mediated talks, and calling for a "radicalization" of the protests.
Riot police clashed with indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador's capital again 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.
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 crisis has seen more than 550 people wounded and about a thousand detained, according to the ombudsman's office.
Ending the subsidies meant that fuel prices shot up by as much as 120 percent from October 3.
– US support –
The United States expressed its support for Moreno's government Friday.
"We recognize the difficult decisions that the Government of Ecuador has taken to advance good governance and promote sustainable economic growth," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
"We are aware and monitoring claims of external actor involvement in these demonstrations," Pompeo said.
Struggling to deal with an economic crisis, Moreno has accused his predecessor and ex-ally Rafael Correa along with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of an "attempted coup d'etat" using indigenous groups.
Maduro, a leftist firebrand whom Washington is seeking to oust, has denounced allegations of involvement as absurd, but praised the "popular insurrection" against the IMF.
Apawki Ctro, spokesman for indRead More – Source