Ecuador National Police arrested Leonidas Iza, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) “on the presumption of committing crimes” early Tuesday morning in Cotopaxi Province. Iza, who is leading the national anti-government strike that began Monday, was pictured Monday with protesters at several roadblocks.
Following the arrest, President Guillermo Lasso said that evidence suggests Iza is the “author of violent acts that are punishable by law.” Among those acts, Lasso said, were the burning of a police patrol car near Cuenca, the invasion of agricultural facilities, an attack on an oil pumping station, the cutting off of water to several communities and the closure and damage to roads.
“No one in Ecuador is above the law.” Lasso said.
The arrest sparked an angry reaction from Conaie leaders, who said Iza’s detention will “intensify” protests and could lead to violence. “If the government wants war, it will get it,” Conaie organizational coordinator Agustín Cachipuendo said. “The president and his government will now be held accountable for this action. The people will be outraged and we don’t know how they will respond to the news.”
On its official Twitter account, Conaie said it is “time to radicalize the fight for the freedom of our maximum leader and for the dignity of our struggle.”
According the National Police command, Iza was taken into custody just after midnight Tuesday near Pastocalle in Cotopaxi Province. In a video of the arrest, Iza was ordered out of a truck driven by one of his supporters and placed in a police vehicle. Army personnel accompanied police during the arrest.
Iza was first transferred to a holding cell in the Attorney General’s office in Quito and later to the national prison in Latacunga.