Indigenous occupy power plant in protests in Ecuador that have left 3 dead
June 24, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras
Hundreds of indigenous people have occupied a power plant in southern Ecuador amid protests that have already lasted 11 days against the government of President Guillermo Lasso and the increase in fuel prices. In Quito, indigenous people tried to storm Congress, but were dispersed by police.
The Minister of Energy and Mines, Xavier Vera, said on Thursday (23) to a local radio station that about 300 people from several indigenous and peasant communities took part in the action at the plant located in the province of Tungurahua, 150 km from Quito. He did not say whether the facility remains occupied.
Demonstrators and police during a confrontation in Quito, Ecuador - Martin Bernetti/AFP
The occupation began on Wednesday night (22) in a peaceful manner, but then the operators "were kidnapped," according to Vera, for refusing to suspend the electricity service. Still, the plant did not interrupt the power supply.
"This is not trivial or random. I believe there is a macabre intelligence work, because this substation is essential," the minister said. An eventual power cut could impact the city of Guayaquil, the country's commercial center and capital of the Guayas province, with 2.7 million inhabitants.
Three people have already died amid the repression against the mobilizations, according to the Alliance of Human Rights Organizations. Another 92 protesters were injured and 94 taken away by police.
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Local officials, meanwhile, say 117 security officers were injured. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said that 18 police officers were missing after an attack allegedly carried out by indigenous people against military installations in Puyo, 260 km from the capital.
Under pressure, Lasso took the first step toward resuming dialogue with the protesters. Isolated with Covid, the president gave in to one of the demands and ordered the military to leave the House of Culture, a symbolic place for indigenous people in downtown Quito. "It is a triumph of the struggle," said indigenous leader Leonidas Iza with a megaphone as he advanced toward the cultural center's plaza.
Still, new calls for acts were issued on Thursday, and the conflict seems far from over. The demonstrators are calling for a reduction in gasoline prices, the renegotiation of rural workers' debts with banks, more jobs, and an end to the granting of mining permits on indigenous lands.
Lasso considers part of the demands unfeasible and refuses to revoke the state of exception that governs six provinces and the capital, another demand of the indigenous. The measure empowers the president to mobilize the armed forces to maintain internal order, suspend citizens' rights and decree curfews.
The mobilizations are largely driven by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), which also participated in the waves of protests that led to the fall of three presidents between 1997 and 2005. The daily acts are spreading across the country and gaining intensity especially in the capital, Quito.
The price of a gallon of diesel in the country has risen 90% to US$1.90, and the price of gasoline, 46% to US$2.55 in one year. Since last October, the values have been frozen after popular pressure, but Conaie is demanding that they reach US$1.50 and US$2.10, respectively. ?