QUITO – One person was injured and another was arrested on Monday by Ecuadorian police during a protest led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) against the government’s austerity policies.
The incident was reported by the group on Twitter, where it also mentioned that the mobilization in the central Andean province of Cotopaxi began at dawn and transpired peacefully until police reacted with “strong repression.”
Posted with the tweet was a video showing confrontations between some of the protesters, who brandished sticks and threw objects, and the cops, who responded with tear gas.
“We hold the national government responsible for these incidents,” chanted a trio of protesters holding up a photograph of one of their fellow protesters who was injured in the leg during the clashes.
Indigenous activists in Cotopaxi said that the protesters blocked part of highway E35 at dawn, whereupon police arrived and the altercations took place.
Dennisse de la Cruz, vice president of the Cayambi People’s Confederation, told EFE that the protests come in response to the “latest measures adopted” by the government and that despite dialogue with national authorities, “unfortunately we have not been heard.”
“We are gathering at strategic points,” said the indigenous leader before warning of new mobilizations in the Ecuadorian capital if their demands are not met.
According to Conaie spokesperson Apawki Castro, the indigenous organizations are in “permanent mobilization.”
The economic measures being rejected by the indigenous groups include the elimination of fuel subsidies along with the fear that President Lenin Moreno will privatize strategic economic sectors.
The protesters are also criticizing possible mining, oil and hydroelectric concessions in protected areas and are rejecting the “political manipulation of bilingual intercultural education.”
The Energy Ministry says that in the last 40 years fuel subsidies have cost the country about $50 billion, a sum which it claims justifies the reduction of aid and other measures with an eye toward boosting government revenues by about $400 million a year.
According to official statistics, more than 1 million of Ecuador’s 17 million residents identify as members of the country’s 14 indigenous nationalities.