The crowd attacked and set fire to a police station in the town of Puyo, in the province of Pastaza, Interior Minister Patricio M. Carillo said Wednesday morning during a press conference in Quito.
The attackers set fire to the building while the police were still inside. “Six police officers were seriously injured, three are being held hostage (by an indigenous community) and 18 are missing,” Carillo said.
A branch of a bank was also set on fire and other buildings ransacked, according to the minister.
– “Call for dialogue” –
It was during the same violence that a protester was killed and his death announced on Tuesday evening. He died after having “handled an explosive device” according to the police, “hit in the face, apparently by a tear gas grenade”, according to an NGO.
“We are not going to let ourselves be intimidated. We are going to keep the same (security) devices. Puyo’s violence shows that they do not want dialogue”, denounced the minister, who however “launched once again a public call for dialogue to the indigenous movement and to those radical groups responsible for these senseless acts”.
In Quito, the situation was relatively calm on Wednesday morning, the indigenous demonstrators, gathered around the Salesian University, being for the time being busy having lunch and preparing for another day of protest. Streets were already blocked by tree trunks, opened only intermittently by protesters.
The powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which participated in the revolts that overthrew three presidents between 1997 and 2005 and led violent demonstrations in 2019 (11 dead), has been organizing marches and barricades since June 13 to demand a lower fuel prices.
These rallies turned violent on Tuesday, as indigenous people who had arrived from the outskirts in recent days flooded the center of the capital. They would be around 10,000, according to the authorities.
The president of Conaie, Leonidas Iza, demanded on Tuesday evening, prior to any discussion, the repeal of the state of emergency in force in six of the 24 provinces of the country, as well as the “demilitarization” of a park of Quito occupied by the police and traditionally serving as a gathering point for the natives.
“We cannot lift the state of emergency because that would leave the capital defenceless,” Government Affairs Minister Francisco Jimenez replied Wednesday morning.
– “We sit down and talk” –
“We already know what happened in October 2019 and we are not going to allow it,” he stressed, referring to the invasion of Parliament, the burning of a government building and many damaged public property. “Now is not the time to set more conditions. We have to put the issues on the table. We have to sit down and talk first.”
The Alliance of Human Rights Organizations reports at least 90 injuries and 87 arrests since the protests began. The police put forward a toll of 101 police and soldiers injured and 80 civilians arrested.
On the night of Monday to Tuesday, a first protester died after a fall, but the prosecutor’s office decided to open an investigation for alleged homicide. Another investigation is underway on the deliberate contamination of a hydraulic station in Ambato (110 km south of Quito).
“Democracy in Ecuador is in grave danger,” Defense Minister Luis Lara warned on Tuesday. On the same day, President Guillermo Lasso announced that he accepted “a process of frank and respectful dialogue with Conaie and other civil organizations”.
In addition to the price of fuel, the demonstrators denounce the lack of jobs, the granting of mining concessions in the indigenous territories, the absence of control of the prices of agricultural products and demand a renegotiation of the debts of the peasants with the banks.
Indigenous peoples make up at least one million of the 17.7 million Ecuadorians.