QUITO – The Ecuadorian capital looked Sunday morning as if an earthquake had struck, with streets blocked and blackened by bonfires and other marks of the massive protest against the government’s economic adjustments as per its agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian Ombudsman’s Office raised the death toll in the protests to seven, adding on its Web page that a total of 1,152 people had been arrested and 1,340 injured since the beginning of the protests on Oct. 3.
Of those totals, 499 arrests were made in Pichincha province, where Quito is located, while 913 of the injured people were hurt there.
The entity said that it is “continuing to monitor the human rights situation” amid the nationwide demonstrations.
There was no public transportation on Quito’s streets, no taxis, no Uber service, according to citizens who went out for a walk, and drivers said they had to work their way around the obstacles with difficulty or find alternative routes to get to their destinations.
After a night during which there was a huge “cacerolazo” (protest in which people bang on pots and pans) and clashes with police in some parts of Quito challenging the curfew imposed by the government, there seems to be a possibility that the indigenous strike that’s been under way for the past 11 days may end with a dialogue acceptable to all parties.
According to the city news service, there were at least 40 spots where streets were blocked by protesters in the early morning hours, in the city’s historic district, the epicenter of the protests since Oct. 3.
Streets were also partially blocked in the northern and southern parts of the capital, as well as in some nearby valleys in eastern Quito, municipal sources said.
There are reports that highways such as the Aloag-Santo Domingo road linking the capital with the coastal zone, as well as the Guayllabamba-Cayambe and Calacali-La Independencia highways and several more leading to the Amazon region, have also been blocked.
The Attorney General’s Office reported Sunday morning that authorities had raided the home of Alexandra A., a former mayor of the city of Duran, as part of its investigation into the violent protests in recent days, seizing computers and cellphones “seeking alleged messages related to the National Strike.”
On Saturday, the protests reached their most violent level on a day that started with heavy clashes in downtown Quito and ended with the widespread late-night “cacerolazo,” when thousands of Ecuadorians demanded that the violent protests and vandalism cease by banging on pots and pans.
“Peace! Peace!” shouted the people banging on their pots on their balconies and patios, after being called to the protest on the social networks.
No incidents were reported amid the “cacerolazo,” which – though noisy – was apparently peaceful.
The Conaie indigenous nationalities confederation, which is heading the protest against the government’s economic measures, agreed at midday Saturday to engage in dialogue with the Lenin Moreno administration, although the disturbances continued through the day and into the night.
Moreno had imposed a curfew starting at 3 pm in an attempt to bring order back to the city.
Among the issues being protested by Conaie since Oct. 3 is the elimination of fuel subsidies, one of the conditions demanded by the IMF and other institutions in exchange for granting Ecuador a $10 billion credit line.