QUITO – The United Nations (UN) and the Catholic Church said the government and indigenous groups in Ecuador have agreed to hold talks for the first time to end the crisis engulfing the Latin American country over fuel subsidy cuts.
The UN office in Ecuador and the Church said in a statement that the meeting would be held in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito on Sunday, a day after the country’s President Lenin Moreno ordered a curfew as part of attempts to quell anti-austerity protests in the city, PressTV reported.
The UN and the Catholic Church “inform the Ecuadorian society that after having contact with the government and the organizations of the indigenous movement, the first reunion for dialog has been called for October 13” in Quito, a joint statement said.
“We put our trust in the goodwill of all to establish a dialog in good faith and find a quick solution to the complicated situation in the country,” the statement added.
Earlier, the indigenous groups leading mass protests across the country had rejected an offer for direct talks from Moreno. CONAIE, an indigenous umbrella organization which was key to driving then-President Jamil Mahuad out of office during an economic crisis in 2000, censured Moreno’s government for behaving like a “military dictatorship” by declaring a state of emergency and imposing a curfew.
Moreno scrapped fuel subsidies earlier this month as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain a 4.2-billion-dollar loan despite Ecuador’s high public debt fuel prices. The price of fuel has since more than doubled, officially increasing by up to 120 percent.
The fuel price hike drew thousands of angry Ecuadorians, members of the indigenous community in particular, to the streets across major cities, and security forces were deployed to defuse the unrest. The anti-government demonstrations have left six people dead and nearly 2,100 wounded or detained, according to authorities.
In a nationally-televised address on Saturday, Moreno pledged to assess the law that ended the fuel subsidies and study the effects of the legislation to ensure that it was beneficial to communities. He declined to promise any changes to the law, however.
Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian protesters targeted the offices of a television station and a newspaper and that of the comptroller general on Saturday. Protesters also seized three oil facilities in the Amazon earlier this week.
Moreno has blamed the deterioration in the country’s finances on his predecessor, Rafael Correa, also accusing him of an “attempted coup” and of “using some indigenous groups, taking advantage of their mobilization to plunder and destroy”. The violence has forced Moreno to relocate his government to Ecuador’s second city, Guayaquil.