Indigenous groups block major north-south highway to protest government policies

Jan 29, 2019

Protests by indigenous and campesino groups closed sections of highway E-35 on Monday in Cotopaxi Province, south of Quito. The highway is the major north-south route in Ecuador, running from the Colombian border and connecting Quito, Riobamba, Ambato, Cuenca and Loja.

Police throw tear gas Monday in an effort to clear highway E-35 of protesters. (El Comercio)

Organizers of the blockade said they were protesting a variety of issues including low milk prices, the arrest of a protest leader and the increase of gasoline prices. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) claimed that the focus of their protest are government economic policies, including the elimination of fuel subsidies, of the government of President Lenin Moreno.

During the day Monday, police reopened the highway on several occasions, allowing vehicles to pass, but by Monday night some sections of E-35 remained closed.

Jaime Vargas, president of CONAIE, said protesters would keep roads blocked through Wednesday as part of the so-called Days of Resistance protests organized by his members. “There are many things we are fighting with this government including elimination of multi-cultural education and privatization of government services and we demand satisfactory action on these issues,” he said. “We fought Correa about these things now we oppose Moreno.”

Hundreds of cars, trucks and buses sat idle beside the highway near the Cotopaxi and Tungurahua provincial line Monday night. In some cases, bus passengers walked two or three kilometers past road blocks to board other buses to continue their trip.

Ecuador’s national transportation ministry is advising motorists to avoid E-35 in the area where the protests are occurring.

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