The government says it knows who is responsible for the violence that resulted in several deaths and hundreds of injuries during last weekend’s indigenous protests in Quito: They are the followers of former president Rafael Correa.
On Monday, National Police made four arrests of members of Correa’s Citizen’s Revolution, including the prefect of Pichincha Province, and federal prosecutors say more arrests are coming.
“What happened during the strike was a preconceived plan to cause chaos, disorder and violence to disrupt public order,” says Foreign Minister José Valencia. “It was a direct attack on democracy in Ecuador and it was organized in advance.”
Citing the confiscation of homemade weapons, printed and social media messages urging protesters to “spare no force” when confronting police, Valencia says that most of the violence was an “orchestrated plan that required days of planning.” He also claims that members of the Citizen’s Revolution offered cash payments to some protesters to cause disruptions and spread violence and said that the break-in at the national comptroller’s office was a “hit job” intended to destroy evidence to be presented in upcoming trials against Correistas.
The government’s claim is backed up by the leadership of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie). Conaie President Jaime Vargas, who negotiated an end to protests with President Lenin Moreno Sunday night, calls the participation of Correa supporters during the 12-day strike “an act of terrorism.”
“[Former National Assembly President] Gabriela Rivadeneira, [National Assemblyman] Virgilio Hernández and other Correa followers are the terrorists who spread violence during the protests,” Vargas says, explaining that they wanted to create chaos to facilitate Correa’s return to power.
Among those arrested on suspicioun of inciting violence are Pichincha Prefect Paola Pabón, former mayor of Durán, Alexandra Arce, and National Assemblyman Virgilio Hernández. In total, prosecutors says seven members of the Citizen’s Revolution are currently in custody.
At least three National Assembly Correista members are sheltering in Quito’s Mexican embassy where they have asked for political asylum. Also seeking asylum is Rivadeneira, who entered the Mexican embassy on Saturday.
In a Monday interview from his home in Belgium, Correa said that the charges against his supporters amount to the “actions of lunatics.” He predicted that Moreno’s government will collapse before its term ends in early 2021.