Following six days of massive anti-austerity demonstrations driving his administration out of the capital Quito and making hundreds of arrests, Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno ordered a curfew around government buildings on Tuesday.
The highland capital has been flooded by thousands of indigenous demonstrators following tactics that have toppled past governments. Some burst through security cordons to enter the National Assembly briefly on Tuesday afternoon, wave flags, pump their fists and sing: “We are the people!”
“Elsewhere in Quito and other flashpoints, masked and stick-wielding protesters hurled stones and battled with security forces, who responded with tear gas. The clashes injured 19 civilians and 43 police officers”, authorities said.
Faced with the greatest challenge still facing his 2-1/2-year rule, President Lenin Moreno announced a state of emergency here and moved government operations to Guayaquil’s coastal city where less turmoil has occurred.
Moreno directed the authorities in a written order stated to restrict movement close to government buildings then sensitive installations between 8 p.m and 5 a.m.
The government seeks support from the UN or the Roman Catholic Church. “We encourage dialogue as the necessary route to find a common cause that prioritizes the national interest and social peace,” Moreno said.
Protests escalated last Thursday when the government cut fuel subsidies here in line with a $4.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of a package of economic reforms.
Indigenous groups and others have used burning tires, stones and branches to barricade roads. Armed vehicles and water cannon have been used by police.
Nearly 680 people were arrested, say officials, including a lawmaker who supports the predecessor of Moreno, Rafael Correa.
Moreno was charged of attempting a coup with the support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro by the socialist Correa, his one-time advisor and boss when he was vice president.
Throughout his decade-long reign, Moreno had strongly backed Correa but broke with him after winning an election in 2017 to replace him, pushing economic policies to the right.
Speaking in Belgium, where he is living in self-imposed exile, Correa scoffed at the allegation.
“They are such liars … They say I am so powerful that with an iPhone from Brussels I could lead the protests,” he told Reuters. “People couldn’t take it anymore, that’s the reality,” he said, referring to economic belt-tightening measures.