(Bloomberg) -- Ecuador President Lenin Moreno ordered the first curfew in four decades for the capital, Quito, and nearby valleys on Saturday in a bid to end continuing violent protests.
A curfew, the first since the end of the last military dictatorship in 1979, went into effect at 3 p.m. local time on Saturday. Military forces also were deployed Guayaquil, where the government took refuge as demonstrators swarmed the capital, El Comercio reported.
The curfew “will facilitate the public forces’ action in light of intolerable violent excesses,” Moreno said on Twitter on Saturday.
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. For the second time since protests began, a group of individuals entered the Comptroller General’s Office near the Congress. This time, they set fires and cut hoses, thwarting efforts to extinguish the fires.
“Nowhere in the world does one see demonstrators trying to storm the organism charged with fighting corruption,” Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told foreign media last week after the first attack on the office. The Comptroller General’s office has played a key role in compiling documents on allegedly corrupt practices under former President Rafael Correa, elected on a socialist, anti-graft platform in 2006. “This tells us a lot about what those demonstrators were looking for, and are looking for, to obtain political gain,” Valencia said.
Moreno administration officials said the unprecedented violence, including attacks on oil production facilities that forced state oil company Petroecuador to declare force majeure on deliveries, was fomented by his predecessor Correa and his ally Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
Correa, who lives in Europe, has denied being behind the unrest and said he is being falsely accused by his estranged predecessor, who was his vice president 2007-2013.
Moreno broke with Correa after taking office and let the judiciary to investigate corruption allegations against officials from the previous administration. Correa is charged with kidnapping in a case involving a political adversary in Colombia in 2012. Next week, he is due to stand trial in absentia in Quito, accused of graft and illegal campaign financing.
The international agency Interpol has so far refused to issue an arrest warrant. Correa now lives near Brussels with his Belgian wife.
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