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Ecuador reverses austerity cuts in deal with indigenous people to end protests

Ecuador has reversed a set of controversial austerity cuts as part of an agreement with indigenous people aimed at ending nearly two weeks of deadly protests that paralyzed the country and forced the government out of the capital, Quito.

The agreement was reached late on Sunday following four hours of negotiations between President Lenin Moreno and Jaime Vargas, the head of the indigenous umbrella group CONAIE.

Under the deal, the Quito government revoked an order that had removed fuel subsidies and led to a sharp hike in fuel prices, the two sides announced in a joint statement.

The austerity measures were introduced 12 days ago to secure a $4.2-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, triggering angry protests that left seven people dead.

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

In return, leaders of indigenous people agreed to call on their followers to end protests and street blockades that had forced Moreno to relocate the government to the coastal city of Guayaquil.

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The president had also ordered the capital and surrounding areas to be placed under curfew and military control.

Prior to the talks, which were mediated by the United Nations and the Catholic Church, violent clashes were underway between police and the protesters in Quito.

The protests were, however, replaced with celebrations when the deal was announced.

Indigenous people celebrate a deal with Ecuador’s government outside the Casa de la Cultura in the capital Quito on October 13, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Ecuador’s indigenous groups account for a quarter of the country’s 17.3-million population.

Indigenous leaders mobilized thousands of protesters against the government’s IMF-backed austerity plan, which the government argued would save the state 1.3 billion dollars a year.

Responding to their leaders, people from disadvantaged communities from across the Amazon and the Andes had traveled Quito to take part in the protests.

In the Amazon, the protesters seized three oil fields earlier this week, promoting the Energy Ministry to suspend more than two-thirds of its distribution of crude.

Authorities said 1,349 people had been injured and 1,152 detained in the demonstrations.

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