Defying the government, the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the largest organization of indigenous peoples in the country, blocked roads in the provinces of Pichinca (where the capital Quito is located), Imbabura and Cotopaxi on Saturday.
On Saturday, roads were blocked in 14 of the country’s 24 provinces, according to the integrated security service ECU911, following the declaration of a state of emergency in these territories.
La Conaie asked the National Assembly on Saturday to repeal the state of emergency so as “not to be complicit in the repression against the people”, she said on Twitter.
National Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela told reporters that 72 of the Assembly’s members had filed for dismissal.
He summoned parliamentarians to discuss the issue on Monday and decide whether to call protest movement leaders and state officials to dialogue.
The Constitution requires 70 votes out of 137 in the Assembly to revoke President Lasso’s decree establishing the state of emergency.
La Conaie demands that the government respond to 10 demands, including that prices be reduced to $1.50 for diesel and $2.10 for gasoline, a demand that Quito has rejected.
Other demands include control of food prices and the renegotiation of personal bank loans for some four million families.
Since the start of the movement on Monday, clashes with security forces have left at least 83 injured and 40 people arrested, according to authorities and indigenous organizations.
Friday evening the conservative president Guillermo Lasso declared that he was committed “to defending the country”. “This forces me to declare a state of emergency in Pichincha, Imbabura and Cotopaxi from midnight tonight” (05:00 GMT Saturday), he announced in a televised address.
The state of emergency makes it possible to mobilize the armed forces to maintain order, suspend the rights of citizens and establish curfews.
La Conaie, who helped overthrow three Ecuadorian presidents between 1997 and 2005 and had already led the violent protests in 2019, said the movement would continue until his demands were heard.
The indigenous community represents more than one million of Ecuador’s 17.7 million inhabitants.
Leonidas Iza, the head of Conaie, advocated “the fight at the national level, indefinitely”. He had previously called for an end to violence and vandalism.
– “Derisory” measures –
Fuel prices have risen sharply in Ecuador since 2020, from $1 to $1.90 per gallon (3.8 liters) for diesel and from $1.75 to $2.55 for gasoline.
The protest movement, joined by students and workers, led to the blocking of access to two main supply markets in Quito.
Indigenous Amazonians temporarily occupied local government seats while in Quito, nearly 1,000 protesters attempted to tear down the metal fences surrounding the presidential headquarters.
Growers of flowers, one of Ecuador’s main export products, complained on Friday that due to roadblocks their produce was rotting.
“So far, 75% of flower growers across Ecuador have been unable to ship their cargo,” the flower exporters union tweeted.
The protests have so far caused some $50 million in damage to the economy, according to the Production Ministry.
In an attempt to defuse the crisis, the conservative president, in power for a year, received a small delegation of indigenous representatives on Friday, but the discussions apparently yielded little result.
In the evening, in addition to the state of emergency, he announced the increase in monthly aid from 50 to 55 dollars for the poorest families, as well as aid for farmers.
Mr. Iza considered that these “derisory” measures miss the “fundamental questions”.
The country is suffering from inflation, unemployment and poverty, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last December, poverty in Ecuador affected 27.7% of the population and extreme poverty 10.5%. Rural areas are the most vulnerable.