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Moreno militarises capital, imposes curfew and sends in troops as protests rage

ECUADOR’S military seized streets and enforced a curfew over the weekend after protesters burnt down government and media offices.

Soldiers patrolled the streets of the capital Quito today and footage showed armoured vehicles rolling in as indigenous leaders prepared to hold talks with the President on the public rage against austerity measures and fuel price rises.

President Lenin Moreno handed over all security control across the country to the army and National Police for 24 hours at 3pm local time on Saturday.

His decision followed an indication of confidence by the United States, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo releasing a statement on Friday expressing support for Mr Moreno’s bid to “implement needed economic reforms.” It also praised the President for taking “difficult decisions” and alluded to his unsubstantiated claim that Venezuela and former president Rafael Correa were masterminding the protests, saying it was “aware and monitoring claims of external actor involvement.”

Mr Moreno said the military would enforce the round the clock curfew in Quito and around critical infrastructure like power stations and hospitals in an attempt to “restore order” in light of protests he described as “increasingly violent.” But the UN has called on the government to investigate the deaths of demonstrators killed by police.

The announcement followed the decision by an umbrella organisation the Ecuadorean Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) to begin discussions to end protests. 

Conaie had previously rejected talks but agreed on the condition that the meeting would be made public and not held behind closed doors.

The President also offered possible concessions in the economic package that sparked the protests, though he did not retract his decision to remove fuel subsidies.

Conaie expressed outrage at Mr Moreno’s decision to hand control to the military and said its members would continue to protest. 

“There’s no real dialogue without necessary guarantees of physical safety,” the group wrote on Twitter.

By Saturday night, soldiers had retaken control of the park and streets leading to the National Assembly and the national comptroller’s office, which had been set alight by protesters after breaking into the building.

Despite the President’s claim of the curfew having “tangible” results, protesters hung out of their windows and took to their roofs with pots and pans across the capital.

An indigenous leader and four other people have been killed in the protests since it began on October 3. 

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