Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno announced Saturday that starting at 3:00 p.m. local time, the city of Quito was being "militarized" and put under curfew.
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno declared Saturday afternoon, with a 30 minute warning, that his government was putting the capital city of Quito under a curfew starting at 3:00 p.m. local time and declared the city and its surrounding areas to be "militarized."
In a press conference flanked by his Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner and Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin, the president said the measure was being taken to "facilitate the use of public force in the face of intolerable excess of violence" that has occurred in the city since protests began 10 days ago.
However, on Friday afternoon, an hour after Moreno invited the Indigenous groups and other civil society groups to “dialogue” for the first time since massive protests began against the government's austerity measures, it was the military and National Police that bombarded peaceful protesters with live ammunition and tear gas who had gathered in front of the National Assembly to support the beginning of the talks.
The violence on part of security forces sent masses of demonstrators running toward the historic center to protect themselves.
The move by the president on Saturday comes as demonstrators began to march in all parts of the city—from the historic center where anti-government protests are typically localized—to the northern parts of the city that house a mix of affluent and also poorer, more working class neighborhoods.
At the offices of Teleamazonas television outlet in the northern end of Quito, a van belonging to the company was set on fire within the facility's parking area. Tweets about the incident say that employees are inside the building. It's unclear who began the fire. Firefighters tweeted that they are having a hard time reaching the van to put out the flames.
The Ecuadorean Conferderation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), which has organized the main protests near the National Assembly this week, tweeted that its group was not responsible for the vandalism at Teleamazonas or the state agency that was ransacked the morning of Oct. 12.
State helicopters have been ciruculating the skies of Quito since Saturday morning and videos taken from residents in the historic center of the city show military armored vehicles firing unknown explosives at protesters in the street.
Protesters are out against the controversial 'decree 883' that ended fuel subsidies. They are also against other government measures to eliminate certain taxes for big businesses and reduce workers' rights and salaries. The policies are being implemented at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for a US$4.2 billion loan negotiated by the Moreno administration last March. At that time, the president's approval rating registered at 17 percent.