| 21 May 2024, Tuesday |

Ecuador demonstrators block some roads, dozens arrested

Thousands of people demonstrated against conservative Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso’s economic policies on Tuesday, only days after he doubled fuel prices, causing traffic jams in several regions of the country.

Following criticism from indigenous and other organizations, Lasso, an ex-banker who assumed office in May, cancelled planned progressive increases in fuel pricing, which were designed to finally coincide with international costs.

Instead, he fixed the price of gasoline extra, a higher octane gasoline that is Ecuador’s most commonly used fuel, at $2.55 per gallon, and diesel at $1.90 per gallon.

However, unions and other groups urge Lasso to freeze prices at lower levels and omit COVID-19-affected businesses.

Defense Minister Luis Hernandez informed journalists that five police officers were injured and two members of the armed forces were being held by a community in northern Quito, but that they were uninjured.

He stated that 37 people were apprehended for blocking roadways.

Demonstrators were hurt, according to the Ecuador Confederation of Indigenous Nations, but no figures were given.

Interior Minister Alexandra Vela said marches were peaceful except for a few incidents in the afternoon and said the government was open to dialogue.

Gasoline costs have risen significantly since Lasso’s predecessor, Lenin Moreno, began monthly increases in May 2020.

“We don’t agree that the measures implemented because of the crisis should fall on workers and the middle class,” said university professor Victor Sanchez, 55, as he marched in central Quito with about 1,000 others.

Police used tear gas in the capital amid small clashes with protesters, while officers on horseback blocked the entrance to the plaza that had been the marchers’ destination.

Marches also took place in Guayaquil and Cuenca.

Indigenous groups blocked the road that connects Quito to the country’s north with earth and trees, and others in various Andean provinces were closed.

Indigenous organization CONFENIAE said some roadways in the Amazon region had been shuttered from the early morning.

“We didn’t come to destabilize, we came to make economic demands of the government,” CONAIE president Leonidas Iza told demonstrators in Panzaleo.

  • Reuters