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As political crisis deepens, Moreno relocates to Guayaquil and blames violence on Correa

President Lenin Moreno, backed by Ecuador’s military brass, during Monday night’s television address.

President Lenin Moreno flew to Guayaquil Monday afternoon, saying he needed to be closer to Ecuador’s military command to best manage the country’s political crisis.

Thousands of indigenous marchers are expected to arrive in Quito on Tuesday. (El Comercio)

In a television address, the president again offered to talk with protesters although he insisted again that he would not “take back” the economic reforms he announced a week ago. He added that protesters engaged in illegal activity will not be tolerated. “My primary objective is to protect the safety and integrity of citizens of Ecuador,” he said. “In the current dispute, violence and chaos will not win.”

Moreno delivered his comments flanked by Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner and Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrín with top military commanders standing behind him.

Moreno also attacked what he called “devious political intentions” to destabilize the government, blaming former president Rafael Correa and his supporters. “It is no coincidence that Correa, Virgilio Hernández, [Ricardo] Patiño and [Paola] Pabón traveled to Venezuela at the same time a few weeks ago,” he said. “This is Correa’s destabilization plan but it will not succeed.”

Moreno’s claim of a secret Venezuelan meeting was called “hysterical” by Patiño, foreign minister under Correa.

As of Monday night, most of the country’s major highways remain blocked by indigenous and peasant protesters. In several cities, including Cuenca, public transportation has been suspended.

Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacio

In a Tuesday morning radio interview, Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios said that all major roads into and out of Cuenca are blocked. “We are in the same situation as almost all other cities in the country and this will cause delivery problems for basic goods, such as food and fuel. For critical items, such as medicine, they can be delivered by air but this is only a partial solution.”

In answer to a call-in question about security, Palacios said that he has no authority with the national police, which are under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior. “The city only has control of the Citizen Guard but, as you know, these officers are not armed.”

He added that the collection of garbage has been temporarily suspended.

Monday afternoon saw a new wave of protests in Cuenca’s historic district as taxi and bus owners and their supporters marched up Simon Bolivar and around the barricaded Parque Calderon. Like local transportation unions in other cities, Cuenca transit unions announced the suspension of bus and taxi service late in the morning, demanding that the federal government reverse the fuel price increases announced last week.

National police used armored vehicles to fire tear gas was fired in several locations in several locations, including at Padre Aguirre and Bolivar and Sucre and Borrero.

Nationwide, efforts to clear highways have made little progress, Defense Minister Jarrín admitted Monday afternoon. “We are making progress but new blockages are being erected as fast as we take others down,” he said.

The ministry said that 3,000 army troops have been deployed to Cuenca and Azogues, with 2,000 expected in Cuenca by late afternoon.

In Quito, President Lenin Moreno repeated his offer to engage in discussions with indigenous and peasant organizations but the offer has been repeatedly refused. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) says that 20,000 indigenous marchers will arrive in Quito on Tuesday morning to conduct peaceful protests.

How to keep up with events

Several talk radio stations in Cuenca are providing frequent reports on political protests, road closings and public announcement. The most comprehensive coverage is on La Voz del Tomebamba, 1070 AM and 102.1 FM. The station’s Facebook page offers frequent posts but the station warns that some of the information is incorrect. Posts are in Spanish but can be translated to English.