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Ecuador seeks UN help as fuel hike protests intensify

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-10-10 09:53

A man stands wrapped in the national flag as an armored personnel carrier is seen during protests after Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno's government ended four-decade-old fuel subsidies, in Quito, Ecuador, Oct 3, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The Ecuadorian government Tuesday said it has asked the United Nations to help restore social peace as demonstrations over a fuel price hike intensified.

"The Ecuadorian government has communicated to the United Nations' representative in Quito its willingness to receive the support of the UN conducive to restoring social peace and understanding in the country," the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

According to local media, protesters damaged Ecuador's congressional building and broke into the Comptroller General Pablo Celi's office early Tuesday.

"The Comptroller's office was the target of an attack by an organized gang that clearly intended to extract and destroy documents that sustain civil and criminal responsibilities," Celi said.

The break-in was not carried out by random protesters, but by "professionals, experts in wreaking havoc," said Celi.

Ecuador's Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) denied any responsibility for the acts of vandalism, saying "those actions have nothing to do with our base."

Some 20,000 indigenous Ecuadorians were headed to the capital to join a mass demonstration, Conaie said on Monday.

The protesters were moving in caravans to join a mass demonstration starting on Wednesday against a presidential decree released on Oct 1 that scrapped fuel subsidies, raising the prices of gasoline and diesel.

The indigenous association refused to talk with the government until the decree is repealed, Conaie President Jaime Vargas earlier said at a press conference.

Protests began after the national transportation union rejected the government's announcement of the elimination of the fuel subsidies on Oct 1.

Transport workers took to the streets, blocking roads with burning tires as protests turned violent in some places, mainly in the capital Quito.

On Oct 3, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno declared a nationwide 60-day state of emergency and said he took the measure "to avoid chaos" and protect the safety of citizens.

Moreno said the decision to liberalize gasoline and diesel prices was made to correct the fiscal deficit and "serious errors" in Ecuador's dollarized economy.

Officials said law enforcement forces will continue to patrol the streets under the state of emergency until peace and stability return to the country.

Presidential spokesman Juan Sebastian Roldan said early Tuesday that 570 demonstrators have been arrested so far.

The Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Resources said state oil company Petroamazonas EP estimated production losses of some 165,000 barrels of oil a day as protests disrupted operations.

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