Calm returns to Quito and Cuenca although some highways remain blocked; foreign resident in Quito may be deported because she joined the protest
The intensity of nationwide anti-government protests was dramatically lower on Friday as Thursday’s sometimes-violent confrontations between protesters and police did not repeat. Although there were marches and speeches in Quito, Cuenca and other cities, there were fewer demonstrators and little violence.
Protesters set up camp in several locations in Quito while others went home. Government supporters also camped out, near the president palace.
Most of the action Friday was with indigenous residents who erected barricades on several highways. Although police and army personnel removed debris from roadways, residents usually returned to reestablish new positions. Travel between Quito and Cuenca and Cuenca and Loja was almost impossible, although police said they will continue to reopen highways. Most inter-provincial bus companies have suspended service.
Blocked highways near Cuenca are in Cañar Province to the north, and near Nabón and Saraguro to the south.
In Quito, the government renewed its pledge to keep highways open and said it would arrest those who tried to close them. It said that more Army personnel would be deployed if necessary to keep traffic flowing.
The government processed dozens of those arrested on Thursday and issued arrest warrants for others.
Thursday’s most notable arrest was of foreign resident Manuela Picq, a French-Brazilian journalist and researcher, and professor at Quito’s San Francisco University. Picq was arrested with her boyfriend Carlos Perez, president of ECUARUNARI, a leader of the national strike.
No charges were filed against Picq who is a contributor to the Qatari television channel Al Jazeera.
Although video seems to show she was not involved in violent activity, Picq was taken by police to a Quito hospital for treatment of minor injuries suffered during her arrest, and then turned over to immigration authorities.
On Friday, the Foreign Ministry said she was in the country without proper documentation and would be deported. Picq claims that her visa, a 12-VIII cultural exchange visa, is in order. She said the visa is renewed annually because of her faculty position at the university. She has lived in Ecuador for eight years.
As of Friday night, Picq remained in the custody of immigration authorities as her attorney attempted to get clarification from the government about the charges against her and her immigration status.
“They never said why I was arrested and why they plan to deport me,” Picq said. “Obviously, this is a political and not a legal issue. My visa is valid and in order. I consider my detention a kidnapping and my arrest arbitrary,” she added in a comment to the Quito newspaper El Comercio.
Perez was released after his arrest.