Ecuador's indigenous converge on capital to protest fuel hikes

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The number of detained during the anti-austerity protests in Ecuador has risen to 570 people, Juan Sebastian Roldan, an aide of President Lenin Moreno, tweeted on Tuesday.

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".

Scores of protesters could be seen inside the national assembly building in videos posted to social media on Tuesday, some waving flags at the chamber's podium, with others chanting slogans against President Lenin Moreno, who has come under fire over a series of spending cuts and other austerity moves linked to an International Monetary Fund loan deal signed in March. Police firing tear gas forced them to retreat.

Some 20,000 protesters were due to arrive in the capital by Wednesday, according to indigenous umbrella organization CONAIE.

During the fourth night of a state-of-emergency, protesters in the capital Quito caused minor damage to Ecuador's congressional building and violently entered the comptroller general's office across the street.

Some video footage has shown police beating protesters on the ground. They had planned to confront the president and hold a dialogue at some point during the protests, but Moreno relocated the seat of government to Guayaquil and fled there late on Monday.

Oil production fell 31 percent after the seizure of three oil facilities in the Amazon, the energy ministry said Tuesday.

Ecuador is facing an economic crisis and was forced to seek a $4.2-billion (€3.8 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a year ago.

Moreno reiterated that he won't reinstate the fuel subsidies.

Indigenous groups and others have been barricading roads with burning tires, rocks and branches, while police have deployed armored vehicles and tear gas in response.

In a radio and television address, President Lenin Moreno accused his predecessor and ex-ally Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of an "attempted coup d'etat" and of "using some indigenous groups, taking advantage of their mobilization to plunder and destroy".

Moreno had enthusiastically backed Correa during his decade-long rule but broke with him after winning a 2017 election to succeed him, and moved economic policies to the right.

Speaking in Belgium, where he lives in self-exile, Correa told Reuters the accusation against him was nonsense.

"They are such liars ..."

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. "They say I am so powerful that with an iPhone from Brussels I could lead the protests", he told Reuters, holding up his mobile telephone. "People couldn't take it anymore, that's the reality", he said, referring to belt-tightening measures.

Maduro, who has presided over an economic implosion and political crisis in Venezuela, has yet to respond to the accusation of involvement in Ecuador.

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

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