QUITO – Ecuador police on Saturday took control of the area surrounding central Quito’s Ecuadorian Culture House, where hundreds of indigenous protesters took shelter fearing a violent eviction after a curfew was enforced in the capital.
Hundreds of police officers gathered outside the cultural complex to maintain order, following a presidential order by President Lenin Moreno, who declared a curfew starting 3 pm.
Police pickets urged the small number of protesters remaining outside to clear out, without any incidents, EFE confirmed.
Groups of soldiers also arrived on the spot, which was being considered a “peace zone” and “humanitarian corridor” before the curfew was enforced.
The area appeared chaotic due to destruction and debris caused by the heavy clashes between protesters and security forces, which were especially violent on Saturday.
Protesters also forcibly took the headquarters of the comptroller general’s office and set fire to it, and tried to do the same with the headquarters of a television channel and a national newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) warned of the possibility of eviction of people who remain in the Culture House by the security forces.
“The firing of teargas has affected the interior of the main theater of the Culture House, violent eviction imminent,” the Conaie tweeted along with a photo of the building’s interior in a cloud of smoke.
However, Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo ruled out eviction, adding that the curfew should be respected in the area.
At night, Quito’s calm during the curfew was broken by thousands of people banging pots and pans from their homes in the popular cacerolazo form of protests around 8:30 pm (0130 GMT Sunday), demanding an end to the ongoing violence.
At first the protest was kicked off by a few people in the capital who had mobilized through social networks, but more and more people joined in the peaceful demonstration, demanding a return to normalcy.
“Peace, peace!” some participants shouted from their balconies.
In a new statement to the nation on Saturday, Moreno said it was “a sad day for Ecuador, for Quito, for the history of our country,” and referred to the events that occurred Saturday as “unprecedented violence.”
However, he indicated that the curfew has had “tangible results” and that peace had been restored in much of the capital by night.
The president announced a series of resolutions regarding the state of emergency, as well as a possible offer to the protest groups.
Among them, he said the curfew would remain in Quito and the valleys that make up the metropolitan district until further notice.
He also signaled willingness to analyze and review the controversial decree 883, which includes the removal of fuel subsidies, “as per the request made by indigenous organizations and social sectors.”
In addition, the first dialog between the government and representatives of the indigenous movement is to take place at 3pm on Sunday, the United Nations in the Andean country and the Episcopal Conference of Ecuador announced on Saturday.
Without offering details over the meeting’s venue and members of the delegations sent by the two sides, the Ecuadorean Church and the UN said they trusted the “good will of all sides to establish a dialog in good faith and find a rapid solution to the complex situation in the country.”
The indigenous movement which has been leading protests against the economic measures announced by the government to fulfill a credit agreement with the International Monetary Fund – especially the withdrawal of fuel subsidies – said on Saturday that it would accept the offer of dialog by the government, after 10 days of protests and clashes.
The clashes between protesters and security forces have killed at least five people, while more than 900 have been injured and more than a thousand arrested since Oct. 3.