QUITO, Ecuador — Residents of Ecuador’s capital picked their way through piles of burnt tires and chunks of pavement Sunday as the government and indigenous protesters headed to negotiations aimed at defusing more than a week of demonstrations that have paralyzed the nation’s economy.
Protests against a plan to remove fuel subsidies as part of an International Monetary Fund austerity package have left seven dead and halved oil production, forcing Ecuador to temporarily stop shipping its most important export.
The United Nations and Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference said negotiations would begin between President Lenín Moreno’s government and the Confederation of Indigenous Nations, which has brought thousands of indigenous protesters to the capital and organized anti-austerity protests across the country, from the Andes high sierra to the Amazon rain forest.
The public ombudsman’s office said Sunday that seven people had died in the protests, 1,340 had been hurt and 1,152 arrested. The government shortened a 24-hour curfew imposed on Saturday, allowing people to move freely around the capital between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
The protests have drawn in thousands of Ecuadorians from outside the indigenous minority and many said they would continue demonstrating despite the negotiations. On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people defied the curfew and headed toward the main protest site, some carrying wooden poles. Police let them enter the park and surrounding area but searched people’s bags and confiscated potential weapons.
Demonstrations in Quito took three distinct forms on Saturday, the most tumultuous in 10 days of protests against Moreno’s austerity measures. Thousands of indigenous people protested outside the National Assembly in the city center. Front-line troops of young people, both whites and mestizos from inside Quito and indigenous from the countryside, fought police with stones, Molotov cocktails, and improvised mortars. Several dozen broke into the national comptroller office, smashing windows and setting the building afire.
Elsewhere in the city, groups of masked men attacked media offices, setting fires before they were driven off by police.