Ecuador cracks down on protesters over austerity & IMF loan, President moves govt from capital (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
By Monday, some 477 people had been arrested after five days of heated demonstrations, in which protesters blocked roads and clashed with police on the streets of Quito.
The demonstrators – many of them indigenous peoples – met a forceful police response, including tear gas, billy clubs and armored vehicles, with officers pursuing protesters on horseback and motorbike.
Continúa la represión del “gobierno del diálogo”. Cuánto tiempo más el país debe soportar esta conmoción social? Su temor es cada vez más evidente, la violencia es su respuesta! #SOSEcuadorpic.twitter.com/bvJUh4G4Ja— Marcela Holguín (@marcelaholguin) October 7, 2019
After the clashes, “the streets of Quioto looked more like a warzone with rocks, bottles, and tear gas cartridges scattered everywhere,” RT Spanish correspondent Nicolas O’Donovan reported from the Ecuadorian capital. Covering the events proved a risky endeavor for him and his crew, who got dosed by tear gas as police were dispersing demonstrators.
President Moreno announced on Monday evening that he would no longer govern from Quito, and would instead relocate to the southwestern city of Guayaquil, hoping to avoid the brunt of the demonstrations. Late last week, he hoped to end the gatherings with a 60-day national emergency decree, temporarily rescinding press freedoms and the right to public assembly, but the marches have not abated.
6:42 pm. The situation in Ecuador continues to be tense. Military trucks arrive at the presidential palace. Social movements are on the streets. President Lenín Moreno is nowhere to be found. @telesurenglishpic.twitter.com/DDGiZZyr6n— Estefanía Bravo (@EbravoteleSUR) October 7, 2019
The days of rage were prompted by a package of spending cuts introduced by the Moreno administration last week, particularly its elimination of state fuel subsidies. The fuel prices more than doubled, taking a disproportionate toll on poor and indigenous communities.
The new economic measures come in preparation for a $4.2 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved in March. IMF loan agreements often require recipient nations to reform internal economic policies before they are approved.
On Monday, as protesters made their way toward Quito’s presidential palace, where Moreno was expected to give an address, officials and journalists were suddenly ejected from the building by the military, reportedly as a security measure. Some were caught up in the massive police perimeter around the palace, which included barbed wire and fences, and left stranded for some time with no way to leave.
#EnEsteMomento#URGENTE periodistas estamos en la calle, en las inmediaciones del Palacio de Gobierno. Militares desalojaron la Presidencia porq hay manifestaciones acercándose. En este momento, los periodistas no tenemos ningún tipo de seguridad para salir @eluniversocompic.twitter.com/grctULQEfu— Gladys Rivadeneira (@GYRivadeneira) October 7, 2019
While security forces continued to build up defenses around the palace, where armored vehicles could be seen arriving late on Monday.
The president also slammed the protests as a “coup attempt” carried out by “corrupt” lawmakers affiliated with his predecessor and one-time ally, Rafael Correa and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
¡Con alegría y entusiasmo!, así recibe la gente de Quito a la marcha del Movimiento Indígena que avanza a Quito desde el sur del Ecuador, vamos a lucha con respeto y unidad con los sectores que se suman a la lucha por los derechos de todos los ecuatorianos#SomosConaiepic.twitter.com/1oVyzjw1ek— CONAIE (@CONAIE_Ecuador) October 7, 2019
Despite the crackdown, the protests show no sign of fading. Indigenous groups say they expect around 20,000 more demonstrators to arrive in Quito by Tuesday, many of them voyaging from southern parts of the country to partake in the protests. Videos have appeared on social media showing throngs of protesters as they marched toward the city.
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