QUITO – Hundreds of indigenous people briefly occupied Ecuador’s National Assembly on Tuesday before being evicted by security forces amid continuing nationwide protests against the economic austerity policies of President Lenin Moreno.
Police and troops forcibly removed the activists from the building.
Mounted police and K9 units then established an extended perimeter around the legislature, which adjourned late Monday after altercations between protesters and security guards.
The assembly building is not far from a Quito park where some 10,000 indigenous people were gathering ahead of a march planned for Wednesday to demand that Moreno either roll back the austerity measures he announced last week or resign the presidency.
Efe saw a large contingent of protesters arrive in the square outside congress.
The protesters pushed aside security barriers surrounding the building and poncho-clad elders carrying ceremonial staffs followed in their wake, entering the building with their hands raised, Radio Calle said.
The indigenous leaders asked the demonstrators to remain calm and avoid confrontation with the security forces, but Quito radio stations reported confrontations between cops and protesters gathered in the park.
Protests began last Thursday with the Moreno administration’s enactment of a package of austerity measures adopted at the urging of the International Monetary Fund.
The most controversial aspect of the plan was the end of fuel subsidies, which spurred a 123 percent increase in the price of diesel, but the government also slashed public employees’ pay by 20 percent and took steps toward the privatization of pensions.
Moreno, who responded to the protests by declaring a state of emergency, abandoned Quito on Monday for the coastal city of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s economic hub,
In a nationally televised address from Guayaquil, Moreno said the unrest was being orchestrated by unidentified elements from the government of his predecessor and political mentor, Rafael Correa.
Moreno, who served for a time as Correa’s vice president, won election on a promise to maintain the center-left policies of the Alianza Pais party.
Instead, he has moved to reverse virtually all of Correa’s initiatives and programs.