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Ecuador's Lasso calls protesters 'putschists', declares state of emergency

·1-min read

Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso on Wednesday branded indigenous groups and trade unions as "putschists" and "conspirators" over plans to protest against a hike in fuel prices.

It comes just two days after Lasso declared a state of emergency amidst a rise in drug-related violence, although the government vowed to protect the right to assembly and protest.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE) and trade unions are planning protests, while a doctors' union has said it will demonstrate on Thursday against a lack of both supplies and employment stability.

"The hand of democratic dialogue will be extended, but if we have to impose the constitution by force to confront putschists, we will do so with decisiveness, with spirit and without fear," Lasso told a crowd of thousands of supporters in the capital Quito.

"The conspirators must let us work to realise the dreams of all Ecuadorans."

In less than three years a gallon of the most popular fuel has risen 69 percent from $1.48 to $2.50.

The government has steadily removed subsidies that kept fuel prices low, although it claims it will provide other benefits to the poor.

Lasso also called on his supporters to "protect" the capital Quito, seemingly a reference to violence and vandalism that marked indigenous-led protests in October 2019 that left 11 dead and considerable damage to the city.

"We need to be alert to protect our capital, so that no-one damages Quito with rocks, smashes windows, burns buildings, kidnaps police, kidnaps soldiers, kidnaps journalists," said Lasso.

The CONAIE took part in social revolts that overthrew three governments between 1997 and 2005, and led the 2019 protests against the proposed removal of fuel subsidies, forcing then-president Lenin Moreno to back down.

(AFP)

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