Ecuador's indigenous converge on capital to protest fuel hikes

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas can as people blocking a road clash with soldiers during protests after Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno’s government ended four-decade-old fuel subsidies in Lasso Ecuador

Mr Moreno said the subsidies, which cost the government $1.3bn (£1bn) annually, were no longer affordable.

Moreno has accused the leftist Correa, his one-time mentor and boss when he was vice president, of seeking a coup with the help of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.

Moreno has declared a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecuador-protests/ecuador-declares-state-of-emergency-as-fuel-protesters-block-roads-idUSKBN1WI25Q and relocated government operations to the coastal city of Guayaquil where there has been less trouble.

Government open to foreign mediation Ecuador's government said on Tuesday it would be open to mediation via the United Nations or the Catholic Church, after nearly a week of anti-austerity protests that have rocked the nation and brought hundreds of arrests.

The Organization of American States has since asked for talks in order to end the country's unrest.

Correa meanwhile called for early elections, citing "serious social upheaval", while denying Moreno's accusations that he was fomenting a coup.

Moreno's declaration of a state of emergency last week has failed to deter the advance of indigenous protesters who have repeatedly clashed with security forces on their journey to the capital from the far reaches of the country on foot and in pick-up trucks.

The Guardian reports, "Indigenous protesters have paralyzed roads around Ecuador and blocked a main highway into the capital in a fifth day of action against government austerity measures that have sparked the worst unrest in years, resulting in 477 arrests".

Correa's office rejected the allegations in a statement, while Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, Maduro's US -backed rival, threw his support behind Moreno, accusing Maduro for being responsible for the unrest.

Speaking in Belgium, where he lives in self-imposed exile, Correa scoffed at the accusation. "They say I am so powerful that with an iPhone from Brussels I could lead the protests", he said, holding up his mobile telephone.

"People couldn't take it anymore, that's the reality", he said, referring to economic belt-tightening measures.

Other government buildings in the capital were also attacked and damaged, local media reported.

The seizures affected 12% of the country's oil production, the ministry added, without identifying the groups responsible.

Ecuador appears to be at a unsafe impasse after days of escalating protests and clashes.

"There are groups bent on causing chaos and confrontation, endangering democratic order", the government said in a statement. Though he enjoys the support of business and the military, Moreno's popularity has sunk to under 30%, compared with 70% in 2017.

Indigenous-led protests have toppled three presidents in the past few decades.

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