Indigenous Protesters Take Eight Police Officers Hostage Amid Ecuador Unrest

Indigenous Protesters Take Eight Police Officers Hostage Amid Ecuador Unrest

Protesters in Ecuador fought a running battle with security forces Wednesday in a second day of violent demonstrations over a fuel price hike that forced the government to suspend most of the country's deliveries of crude.

Romo said the men had "information about the movements of the president and vice president".

In a televised interview Tuesday night on the Teleamazonas channel, Moreno repeated his willingness to engage in dialogue with the protesters as well as his refusal to revoke the austerity measures, saying "it's not possible". Red Cross volunteers had been attacked in several locations in recent days and people threw stones at an ambulance in Quito on Monday, the aid group said.

Ecuador's cuts in fuel subsidies were among measures announced as part of a $4.2 billion funding plan with the International Monetary Fund, which says the funds will strengthen the economy and generate jobs.

Earlier, one of eight captive officers was forced to drape a national flag on his shoulders and wear a hat used by some indigenous people. A female officer could be seen wiping tears from her face. The officers appeared to be unharmed, and were released late Thursday.

More than 20 journalists inside the cultural center were barred for a while from leaving by protesters.

Still, the government seems to have been taken aback by the ferocity of the unrest, a miscalculation that undermined its credibility among indigenous groups and others who have long felt marginalized in this nation of 17 million people.

In a statement, the military appealed to Ecuadorians to denounce anyone who uses the cover of the protest to carry out vandalism and other crimes.

"Democracy will not fall in the streets of Guayaquil!" the city's mayor Cynthia Viteri told the crowd, most of whom were dressed in white in a pro-peace display.

Moreno, 66, has accused his predecessor and one-time mentor Rafael Correa of fomenting the unrest.

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"There's a lot of uncertainty about what might happen" in Ecuador, said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a US -based research group.

"The future is very dark", said economic analyst Fernando Martin. He speculated that Moreno was not fully prepared for the ferocity of the reaction to the fuel price increases.

The Ecuador government has alleged the supporters of former president for the unrests, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the present government. It identified the leader as Inocencio Tucumbi of the Cotopaxi region.

Some 266 people have been injured and 864 were detained, though 80 percent of detainees have been released for lack of evidence, the public defender's office said.

Crucially, Moreno has received statements of support from the Organization of American States and individual Latin American countries that emphasize he took office as Ecuador's constitutionally elected president in 2017.

"Unfortunately the Correa people with their friends in Venezuela and Cuba and so on are provoking demonstrations and some degree of violence there", the official said on condition of anonymity.

One person was hit and killed by a vehicle, and another person suffered fatal injuries after a fall during protests in Quito, according to Briones.

The president's office has reported two deaths. This is because Quito was in a mountain valley 2,800 meters above sea level and its vulnerability to access few roads could result in escalated tensions if the protestors blocked the area.

The government headquarters is in the old area, but Moreno moved its operations to the port city of Guayaquil because of security concerns.

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