Protest-hit Ecuador seeks foreign mediation, relocates government
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Ecuador's government sought foreign mediation via the United Nations or the Catholic Church on Tuesday, after almost a week of anti-austerity protests that have forced the government to move from the capital and brought hundreds of arrests.
Thousands of indigenous demonstrators have converged on the highland capital, Quito, and were planning to march near the heavily guarded presidential palace on Tuesday.
Facing the biggest challenge to his two-and-a-half-year rule, President Lenin Moreno has declared a state of emergency and relocated government operations to the coastal city of Guayaquil where there has been less trouble.
"The only response is dialogue and firmness at the same time," presidency secretary Juan Roldan told local radio, saying authorities were open to receiving help from the United Nations, the Catholic Church or university rectors.
Officials say the number of arrests has risen to 570.
Protests erupted last Thursday when the government cut fuel subsidies as part of a package of economic reforms, in keeping with a $4.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.
Indigenous groups and others have been barricading roads with burning tires, rocks and branches, while police have deployed armored vehicles, water cannons and tear gas in response.
Among those detained were a Congress member who supports Moreno's predecessor Rafael Correa, said Roldan.
Moreno has accused the leftist Correa, his one-time mentor and boss when he was vice president, of seeking a coup with the help of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.
"They want to turn Ecuador into Venezuela," Roldan said. Moreno had enthusiastically backed Correa during his decade-long rule but broke with him after winning a 2017 election to succeed him, and moved economic policies to the right.
Correa: They are liars
Speaking in Belgium, where he lives in self-exile, Correa told Reuters the accusation against him was nonsense.
"They are such liars … They say I am so powerful that with an iPhone from Brussels I could lead the protests," he said, holding up his mobile telephone.
"People couldn't take it anymore, that's the reality," he said, referring to the belt-tightening economic measures.
Maduro, who has presided over an economic implosion and political crisis in Venezuela, has yet to respond to the accusation of involvement in Ecuador.
With protesters swarming around Quito, various government buildings were attacked overnight, authorities said, adding to looting, assaults on farms, and the destruction of ambulances and police vehicles in recent days.
Indigenous groups have also captured some soldiers, while the unrest has affected oil output. Ecuadorean state-rRead More – Source