The leaders of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), spearheading the protests, including its leader Leonidas Iza, met for nearly five hours on Monday with an official delegation led by the Minister of Government Affairs Francisco Jimenez, noted the AFP.
The meeting, which is due to resume Tuesday at 9 a.m. (2 p.m. GMT), is taking place in an annex of the Catholic basilica in the historic center of the capital, in the presence of representatives of the Church and of Congress.
Mr. Iza called on the government to carry out “a policy that can benefit the poor more”. “We have no problem spending as many days as we want, with our comrades, marching peacefully in the city of Quito and surely in the other cities of Ecuador”, warned once again the head of Conaie .
As a sign of goodwill, the government reduced the price of gasoline and diesel by 10 cents on Sunday, but the natives consider this first reduction “insufficient” and are asking for a reduction of 40 cents.
– “Some answers” –
With this latest drop, the subsidies reach 13.2% of the revenue of the general state budget for nearly 3.4 billion dollars, the equivalent of the education or health budget, underlined Mr. Jimenez, calling for the “search for consensus”.
Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso, who tested positive for Covid-19 last week, did not attend any of the meetings.
The price of fuel is the main demand of the demonstrators, with a one-year moratorium on the payment of bank debts of peasants.
As a sign of openness, the Ecuadorian president on Saturday ended the state of emergency declared a week earlier in six of the country’s 24 provinces most affected by the protests.
He renewed his call for “dialogue” on Sunday evening, warning however “those who seek chaos, violence and terrorism (that they) will find the full force of the law”.
– “Critical level” –
Quito, where some 10,000 indigenous demonstrators are gathered according to the police out of some 14,000 estimated in the country, is at the heart of the movement.
Five demonstrators died in violence with the police in the country, according to an NGO. More than 500 people, civilians or members of the security forces, were injured.
On Sunday, a new, peaceful demonstration took place in the historic center of the city. Women in the lead, several thousand natives, some carrying spears and shields, marched a stone’s throw from the presidency, heavily protected by the police.
“We want this racist government gone, an ungrateful government that has insulted men, women and children by raising the price of basic necessities,” accused one of the protesters, Emma Pirucha, from the Shuar community, the face painted green and black.
The crisis is hitting the country’s economy already affected by the pandemic and closely dependent on oil revenues, the main export product.
The roadblocks that paralyze trade and the forced shutdown of more than 1,000 oil wells, particularly in the Amazon provinces, could, according to the government, lead to a total shutdown of black gold production in the coming hours.
Under pressure from protesters on one side, President Lasso, a former banker in power since May 2021, is also threatened with dismissal. The parliamentary opposition – a majority but divided – blames him for the “serious political crisis” that is shaking the country.
The debate on a possible dismissal is due to continue on Tuesday in Parliament.
After the debates, the deputies will have 72 hours to vote. A majority of 92 votes out of 137 is required for the impeachment procedure to pass.
Mobilizations of the indigenous movement caused the fall of three presidents between 1997 and 2005.