Lasso declares state of emergency in three provinces as Quito protests intensify, announces concessions to Conaie demands; Cuenca remains calm but isolated
President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency Friday night for three provinces hardest-hit by the indigenous anti-government strike. Under the declaration, Pichincha. Cotopaxi and Imbabura Provinces are under restrictions for public gatherings and movement as well as a night-time curfew.
Lasso made the decision following a day of sometimes-violent protests in Quito and the announcement by strike leader Leonidas Iza of an indigenous march on the capital early next week.
During a brief address to the nation, Lasso also announced several measures responding to Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) demands for ending the protests. Following Lasso’s announcement, Iza called the government concessions “a start” but said the strike would continue. He criticized the emergency declaration, calling it “a possible prelude to government violence against the people.”
The state of emergency in the three provinces allows the government to disburse crowds in public spaces “by the use of reasonable force, if necessary” and establishes a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The declaration will be in force for 30 days, according to Lasso.
The concessions the president offered to Conaie demands include: a doubling of the funding for intercultural education; an increase to $55 a month for those in extreme poverty (the human development bonus); declaration of emergency for the public health and Social Security heath systems; a 50% subsidy for small farmers on the price of fertilizer; agricultural loans of up to $5,000 at 1% interest with a 30-year term; and forgiveness of BanEcuador overdue loan penalties up to $3,000.
In addition, Lasso said there would be no increase in prices for diesel fuel, regular gasoline and household LP gas. He also pledged that the government would not privatize public services or facilities.
Violent protests in Quito
Quito endured a second night of sometimes violent protests in the historic district, with police using tear gas on several occasions to push back a crowd from barricades protecting the Presidential Place and Plaza Grande. City officials said that three traffic lights were destroyed while residents reported numerous acts of vandalism.
Quito Mayor Santiago Guarderas thanked Lasso for the emergency declaration but called on the government and Conaie to begin talks immediately. “The city has only five days of food and other essential supplies before we reach a crisis situation,” he said. “Many gasoline stations are out of fuel and roadblocks are preventing new shipments from arriving. We have enough supply for essential service vehicles but this could be exhausted within a matter of days.”
Guardera added that protests have not reached the level of violence of those in 2019 but asked the government to provide more police and military personnel to maintain order.
Cuenca remains calm but needs gas
Cuenca was peaceful Friday as city officials met with Azuay Governor Matías Abad and army brass to arrange supply truck convoys next week from the coast. “The most critical need is cooking gas and we understand that we will receive new shipments early next week,” said Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios. “The military will organize the passage of trucks through the obstacles on the Cuenca-Pasaje highway and these will bring food, essential household supplies as well as LP gas.”
Roadblocks were cleared from the Azogues autopista to Challuabamba Friday morning but police were forced to return on at least three occasions during the afternoon when protesters attempted to reconstruct barricades.
According to transit police, all highways leading to and from Cuenca were blocked as of midnight Friday.