Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Indigenous uprising paralyses Ecuador

From February 16, tens of thousands of Ecuadorians poured into the nation's streets and highways in a 48-hour wave of protest, paralysing much of the country. They demanded the resignation of the president, Lucio Gutierrez, and called for an end to corruption and military ties with the United States.
The protests began with up to 20,000 protesters blocking the streets of the highland province of Cotopaxi, which contains a large proportion of Ecuador's 4 million indigenous population, and extended the length of the country, from the city of Loja in the south to the Colombian border in the north.

In the Cotopaxi capital Latacunga, police used tear gas to disperse crowds of thousands, and in Nabon at least four protesters were killed and dozens injured when police used bullets to quell the demonstrations. Throughout most of Ecuador's provinces, highways and roads were blockaded and the economic life in these areas slowed to a trickle.

This wave of protests was initiated by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), in response to the attempted assassination of its president, Leonidas Iza, earlier in February. Iza was attacked outside his home on February 1 as he returned from a meeting in Havana, Cuba, against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).