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Farmers and indigenous rights' groups block roads and march on Ecuador's capital

FARMERS and indigenous people’s organisations have called an “indefinite mobilisation” to defeat the neoliberal “package” imposed last week by Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno, which ends fuel subsidies and attacks workers’ rights.

Following hundreds of arrests and a defiant tone struck by Mr Moreno in the face of mass protests — he decried demonstrators as “criminals” and has imposed a state of emergency — some unions called off strikes they had launched on Wednesday, though others said they would continue the industrial action.

The state of emergency allows the police to raid homes without warrants, imposes press censorship and curtails civil rights such as the right to assembly.

Leonidas Iza, president of the Indigenous and Farmers Movement from Cotopaxi province, said his organisation planned to occupy the Pan-American E35 motorway and would “take” Quito, the capital city.

The mobilisation would continue until the austerity measures, which were recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for loans, are withdrawn, he said.

Roads were blocked in Cotopaxi, Imbabura and Chimborazo, all provinces with large indigenous populations.

Press reports said authorities had been unable to clear roadblocks and the government’s writ didn’t run in large areas taken over by protesters.

Chimborazo Confederation of Indigneous Movements president Carlos Tagua said: “Our comrades are mobilised across all the province’s parishes and communities.”

Former president Rafael Correa, whose PAIS Alliance has been transformed from a socialist vehicle to a neoliberal force by his successor Mr Moreno, warned that “nobody voted for the IMF. Nobody voted for an increased fuel price.”

President Moreno, who was elected on a platform of continuing the socialist Citizens Revolution Movement spearheaded by Mr Correa, is “scared to death by his betrayal of the movement and the people,” the former president charged.

And he said the IMF’s proposals would do nothing to improve Ecuador’s economy.

“These measures increase poverty, but they are also inefficient; they do not generate growth, employment, anything,” Mr Correa argued.

He said Mr Moreno didn’t dare to hold elections as he knew he would lose and slammed purges of the Civil Service and judiciary by his successor.

Mr Correa contrasted US approval for these measures with Washington’s constant attacks on socialist governments, saying: “There have been five clear breaks of the constitutional order [under Mr Moreno], but since it is not a leftist government but one that sells itself to the United States, they applaud it.”

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