Leonidas Iza, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), announced Tuesday night that protests against fuel costs will continue on Wednesday. “The mobilizations will be maintained until the government responds to the outrage of the people,” he said, demanding the immediate release of those arrested during Tuesday’s marches and roadblocks.
According to National Police, 47 protesters were arrested Tuesday, most of them at road closures and during a march in Quito.
During the first day of protests, major highways were blocked by protesters across the country while marchers congregated in the historic districts of Quito and Cuenca. Most road blocks were dismantled by police and army troops shortly after they were erected and there were minor confrontations in Guayas, Pichincha and Azuay Provinces when police attempted to disperse crowds. Nationally, at least seven police and military personnel and five protesters were reported injured Tuesday.
The largest march was in Quito, where at least 10 arrests were reported when protesters attempted to breach police barricades blocking access to the presidential palace. According Interior Minister Alexandra Vela, those detained were part of the leftist Guevarista movement, when they removed paving stones to throw at police. “In general, today’s protests were peaceful across the country but there were a a number of cases of violence which required the perpetrators to be detained,” she said. “We have no problem with those exercising their constitutional rights but we will not tolerate thugs and vandals.”
The Pan America highway between Quito and Cuenca was blocked in several locations and protesters and police played a cat and mouse game for much of the afternoon, as road blocks were dismantled and reestablished. Eight arrests were made at Daule, north of Guayaquil, when protesters threw rocks at police clearing the roadway. Near Cuenca, The Pan American was temporarily blocked at the Circunvalación Sur and at Turi. The Cajas highway to Guayaquil was also blocked at Sayausi for several hours. Police said all roads were clear by 8 p.m.
In a show of support for the protest, most Cuenca buses suspended service Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., leaving thousands stranded a bus stops. Most taxis were also out of service until noon.
In Cuenca, about two hundred members of teacher and labor unions marched in the rain from San Blas Plaza to Parque Calderon to hear speeches condemning the government for raising fuel prices and not protecting workers’ rights. Rubén Baculima, president of the Azuay United Workers Front, said that protests would return and that this weekend’s Cuenca independence holiday could be disrupted. “Our cause is more important than the holiday and if these festivities are cancelled, so be it.”
Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios vowed to continue with the celebrations. “We invite everyone to come out to this weekend’s events and promise to provide law and order,” said. “We will not allow a repeat of October 2019. Our city will not be trashed again. If the criminals show up, we will arrest them.”
In his call for a second day of protests, Conaie’s Iza said that the demand to roll back fuel prices to $2.10 for gasoline and $1.50 for diesel was “non-negotiable” and that disruptions would continue until the government complies.