Leaders of the indigenous-led national protest strike said yesterday that their protest would continue indefinitely as they staged marches in several cities, including Cuenca.
Salvador Quishpe, Jorge Herrera and Carlos Perez, presidents of the three indigenous organizations sponsoring the strike, said they would continue to block highways in rural areas and would attempt to occupy public buildings in cities. Those priorities are a challenge to President Rafael Correa who has pledged to keep roads and public services operating normally.
In Cuenca, a mid-afternoon march from Parque San Blas to Parque Calderon was peaceful and notable mostly for the fact that the protesters were outnumbered by police.
Marches in Quito, Saraguro, and Macas were larger, and the one in Macas turned violent when protesters and police became engaged in a street brawl, in which several injuries were reported.
Both Correa and the protest leaders are claiming that the other side is responsible for dozens of injuries suffered during a week of protests. Since the opening of the strike, last Thursday, the protest focus has shifted to blocking highways, particularly on the Pan American Highway between Cuenca and Loja. and in the Amazon region near Macas.
The most violent clashes over road closure has been near Macas, where as many 150 police and protesters were injured on Monday and Tuesday. Several police sustained gun shot wounds. On Wednesday, indigenous protesters, some carrying spears, forced police off a highway and reestablished a roadblock. The police commander is calling reinforcements.
On the Pan American Highway, the action has focused on Saraguro, 70 miles south of Cuecna, where police have repeatedly dismantled roadblocks and have arrested 26 protester. In Wednesday’s march in Saraguro, protesters demanded the release of those arrested. Both police and protesters have suffered injuries in clashes there.
Nationally, protest leaders said they would not block roads near the Cotopaxi volcano, saying they did not want to interfere with emergency operations that could hinder evacuations in case of an eruption.