Berliner Tageszeitung - Death toll rises with no end in sight for Ecuador protests

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Death toll rises with no end in sight for Ecuador protests




Death toll rises with no end in sight for Ecuador protests
Death toll rises with no end in sight for Ecuador protests / Foto: © AFP

The death toll from 11 days of Indigenous demonstrations in Ecuador over fuel prices has risen to three, a rights group said Thursday, after another protester died in clashes with police.

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Dozens of people have also been injured in the countrywide demonstrations that Indigenous groups have vowed to continue until their demands are met.

In the southern town of Tarqui, a 38-year-old protester died Wednesday, the Alliance of Human Rights Organizations reported on Twitter, accusing the security forces of using violent tactics.

"A tear gas cannister was found next to" the body of Marcelino Villa, the organization said.

The police, for its part, said Villa had died of a medical condition that occurred "in the context of the demonstrations."

According to the medical report, it added, bruises to the man's stomach and right knee were "several days old."

Two other people died on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Alliance, which also reported 92 wounded and 94 civilians arrested since the protests -- concentrated in the capital Quito -- started on June 13.

Officials say 117 in the ranks of police and soldiers have been injured.

- Mass discontent -

Thousands prepared Thursday for another day of revolt, which has seen main roads barricaded with burning tires and tree branches amid a state of emergency in six of the country's 24 provinces.

The government has rejected demands to lift the emergency measures that were imposed due to the sometimes violent demonstrations called by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie).

Conaie led two weeks of protests in 2019 in which 11 people died and more than 1,000 were injured, and which resulted in the then-president abandoning plans to reduce fuel price subsidies.

An estimated 14,000 protesters are taking part in the mass show of discontent nationwide -- the bulk, some 10,000 of them -- in Quito.

The capital is under a night-time curfew.

Ecuador, a small South American country riddled with drug trafficking and related violence, has been hard hit by rising inflation, unemployment and poverty -- all exacerbated by the pandemic.

The protesters' demands include a cut in fuel prices which have risen sharply in recent months, jobs, food price controls, and more public spending on healthcare and education.

Conaie -- credited with ending three presidencies between 1997 and 2005 -- insists the state of emergency be lifted before it will negotiate, but the government has said this "would leave the capital defenseless."

Official data showed the economy was losing about $50 million per day due to the protests, not counting oil production -- the country's main export product.

State-owned Petroecuador has reported almost 64,300 barrels in lost production with more than 230 wells shuttered by demonstrations in the Amazon.

And Chinese company PetroOriental said protesters had occupied and paralyzed some of its wells in the Amazonian Orellana province.

Producers of flowers, another of Ecuador's main exports, have also complained about their wares rotting as trucks cannot reach their destinations.

I. Johansson--BTZ