Ecuador’s military warned residents on Wednesday to obey the law as its embattled president tries to negotiate with dozens of indigenous groups that have been protesting fuel price boosts.
The message comes after days of unrest that led President Lenín Moreno to move government operations away from Ecuador’s capital, Quito, to the port of Guayaquil. There were scattered clashes in Quito between stone-throwing demonstrators and police using tear gas. Ecuadorians are participating in a national strike in protest of the government’s decision last week to end fuel subsidies, a move that has driven gas prices upward.
In a statement, the military appealed to Ecuadorians to denounce anyone who uses the cover of the protest to carry out vandalism and other crimes.
The military's backing is key for Moreno, who said late Tuesday that his government is negotiating with indigenous groups in a bid to quell the discontent.
The president says the dialogue is difficult because so many indigenous groups are involved, yet he will not resign despite widespread pressure.
“I don’t see why I should if I’m making the right decisions,” he said, according to Reuters.
Moreno said last week that the subsidies have cost the government heavily in recent years and he dropped them in a bid to stimulate Ecuador’s economy. But the move doubled the price of diesel overnight and sharply raised gas prices.
“What the government has done is reward the big banks, the capitalists, and punish poor Ecuadoreans,” Mesias Tatamuez, the leader of the Workers’ United Front union, told Reuters on Wednesday.
The Ecuadorian government says some 700 people have been arrested so far in the protests.
Fox News’ Thairy Lantigua and The Associated Press contributed to this report.