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Crackdown on protesters and opposition leaders in Ecuador gathers pace

INDIGENOUS Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) president Jamie Vargas has been charged with terrorism, supporting “subversive” groups and sabotage against the state as a crackdown on protest and opposition leaders gathers pace. 

Mr Vargas has also been accused by the Attorney General’s Office of promoting “hate” and of kidnapping after activists in Quito detained 10 police officers for several hours during anti-government demonstrations on October 10. 

Two of the accusations have also been made against other indigenous leaders.

Conaie had condemned the persecution of its leaders before the charges were made, with Mr Vargas saying: “We cannot be at the negotiating table while we are being persecuted.”

The indigenous groups said they were preparing his defence, adding on Twitter: “While the government continues with its delusions of a coup, war against the state and an enemy within, the [indigenous] organisation will remain focused on its agenda of struggle to protect our lands.”

This comes after opposition leader Virgilio Hernandez was jailed on Tuesday to await trial for “rebellion” against the state. 

Judge Julio Arrieta ruled that Mr Hernandez, along with other opposition leaders from former president Rafael Correa’s party, had committed rebellious acts following the attorney general’s accusation of alleged participation in violence during the October uprising. 

The demonstrations led to the revocation of Decree 883, which had cut fuel subsidies as part of an austerity package adopted by President Lenin Moreno’s government to obtain an International Monetary Fund loan. 

Last month, the former mayor of Duran Alexandra Arce, Citizen Revolution movement assembly member Yofre Poma and social leader Christian Gonzalez were arrested in co-ordinated police raids. 

Meanwhile, Ecuadorians are continuing to give evidence to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is carrying out investigations in the country following a government invitation to do so. 

Laura Carrion, an artist and mother of four children, told the commission that, after being shot in the head by police, she has lost her sense of smell and suffered permanent damage to her left ear. “I can hear barely anything from that ear now,” she said. 

At least 11 people have been killed and hundreds injured since the demonstrations began. 

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