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Ecuador Has First Curfew in Capital Since 1970s Dictatorship

Stephan Kueffner and Laura Millan Lombrana

(Bloomberg) -- Ecuador’s government ordered the first curfew in about four decades in the capital after another day of violence which saw arson attacks on a TV station and a government office.

The measure, which took effect at 3 p.m. local time on Saturday in Quito and surrounding valleys, “will facilitate the public forces’ action in light of intolerable violent excesses,” President Lenin Moreno said. The curfew in Quito will be maintained “indefinitely” and movements in other parts of the country will be restricted, the government said.

The curfew is the first for the city since a dictatorship in the 1970s, according to Gonzalo Ortiz, a member of Ecuador’s academy of history.

Tens of thousands of indigenous protesters descended on Quito this week after Moreno ended gasoline and diesel subsidies on Oct. 2. The mass demonstrations were accompanied by levels of violence not seen in previous protests, including looting, which led the government to declare a state of emergency.

On Friday, the president in a televised speech said it was “urgent” to end the violence and offered indigenous leaders a chance to negotiate with him. Indigenous organization CONAIE said earlier on Saturday that it would be willing to meet the president, dropping a previous demand that he rescind the gasoline and diesel subsidies decree before any negotiations.

Ecuador’s capital went quiet on Saturday, 40 minutes before the curfew was to take effect. Earlier, protesters marched through Quito’s middle-class neighborhoods and business district, forcing shopping centers to close early.

Some cars in the parking lot at Teleamazonas, one of the nation’s two main private broadcasters, were in flames following a firebomb attack, while protesters also attacked the installations of El Comercio, a Quito newspaper.

For the second time since protests began, a group stormed the Comptroller General’s Office near the Congress. This time, they set fires and cut hoses, thwarting efforts to extinguish the fires.

The Comptroller General’s office has played a key role in compiling documents on allegedly corrupt practices under former President Rafael Correa, who held office from 2007 to 2017.

After the first attack, the government told reporters that Correa’s allies were behind the attacks. Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told reporters Saturday that the government has proof of the former leader’s involvement, as well as Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, through their public statements of support for the protest and through domestic intelligence. Correa, who now lives in Belgium, denied any involvement in the unrest.

Valencia said Ecuador suffered a “massive” attack on constitutional order, though the country isn’t in need of external help to deal with the crisis in Quito.

In the 10 days of chaos, demonstrators have used roadblocks to paralyze large swathes of the Andean region, and have also attacked oil production facilities, forcing state oil company Petroecuador to declare force majeure on deliveries.

(Adds details on curfew in second paragraph, comments from foreign minister in eighth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephan Kueffner in Quito at skueffner1@bloomberg.net;Laura Millan Lombrana in Santiago at lmillan4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Luzi Ann Javier at ljavier@bloomberg.net, Matthew Bristow, Linus Chua

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