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Ecuador repeals law ending fuel subsidies in deal to stop protests

Indigenous people watch President Lenin Moreno and leaders of the indigenous movement on a television in the San Patricio Spirituality Centre in Quito, Ecuador, 13 October 2019 Image copyright EPA
Image caption People gathered at venues all over the country to watch the televised talks

Ecuador’s government has agreed to restore fuel subsidies in a deal with indigenous leaders to end mass protests that have brought the capital, Quito, to a standstill, the UN says.

It came after the two sides held talks brokered by the UN and the Roman Catholic Church.

The talks, which were broadcast live on state television, came after nearly two weeks of violent demonstrations.

President Lenín Moreno had imposed a curfew enforced by the military.

The announcement after Sunday’s meeting sparked late night celebrations in Quito. Fireworks were set off and car drivers honked their horns.

A joint statement said the government had withdrawn an order removing the fuel subsidies.

“With this agreement, the mobilisations… across Ecuador are terminated and we commit ourselves to restoring peace in the country,” it said.

The two sides will now discuss a new law to ensure subsidies are not exploited by people who smuggle fuel to neighbouring countries.

Government official Juan Sebastian Roldan said talks to start drafting the new law would start immediately.

“Conceding is not losing,” he said. “Here we are all conceding.”

A commission will also be set up to re-establish peace in the stricken Andean nation, with mediation by the Catholic Church, the UN and others.

Agreement a blow for Moreno

Analysis by Will Grant, BBC Central America correspondent

The protest leaders in the negotiating room applauded while President Moreno gave no response.

This is undoubtedly a blow for him. Decree 883 was the main issue which prompted people to take to the streets in the first place and the president had repeatedly said there would be no going back on it.

However, given the intense and widespread protests over the past 12 days, in the end he had little choice.

The calls for his resignation have been growing louder with each protest and President Moreno has looked increasingly vulnerable – especially since a number of demonstrators were killed in clashes with riot police.

The protests began after the government announced an end to fuel subsidies as part of public spending cuts agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for a loan.

Mr Moreno said the subsidies, which cost the government $1.3bn (£1bn) and were introduced in the 1970s, were no longer affordable. Eliminating them was part of his plan to shore up Ecuador’s flagging economy.

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Media captionClashes, chaos, fire and smoke engulf Quito

But petrol prices soared and thousands took to the streets.

Clashes between protesters and riot police led Mr Moreno to declare a two-month national emergency. He accused his opponents of attempting a coup.

As the violence grew worse Mr Moreno temporarily moved government operations from Quito to the port city of Guayaquil.

With no end in sight to the unrest, Mr Moreno on Saturday announced a curfew would be imposed in Quito and surrounding areas, enforced by the military.

Members of the indigenous umbrella group CONAIE had previously rejected calls for the talks but agreed on the condition that they be broadcast and not held behind closed doors.

Indigenous-led protests have toppled three presidents in the past few decades. Since the current unrest began, protesters have taken dozens of officers hostage in various locations throughout the country.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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