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Ecuador opposition lawmakers begin efforts to remove Lasso, protests rage on

Global Jun 24, 2022 18:21
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A fire is seen as demonstrators use makeshift shields during an anti-government protest amid a stalemate between the government of President Guillermo Lasso and largely indigenous demonstrators who demand an end to emergency measures, in Quito

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) - A group of opposition lawmakers in Ecuador are pushing for the removal of conservative President Guillermo Lasso after nearly two weeks of mass protests led by indigenous groups demanding lower fuel and food prices.

The sometimes-violent demonstrations, which began June 13, are connected to at least six civilian deaths and multiple attacks on security forces.

The protests have worsened Lasso's already-adversarial relationship with the national assembly, whose lawmakers have blocked his major economic proposals as he has struggled to contain rising violence he blames on drug gangs.

Lawmakers from the opposition UNES movement, loyal to former leftist President Rafael Correa, called on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) for elections - not scheduled until 2025 - to be moved forward.

Ecuador's constitution allows lawmakers to remove presidents and call elections if the country is going through political crisis or mass unrest.

"The country can't take it anymore," UNES opposition lawmaker Fausto Jarrin told Reuters, adding that he is formally asking the legislature to convene a meeting on the removal process. "Dialogue is being broken by all sides, with violence."

Lawmakers from other parties would individually support the efforts, Jarrin said.

The legislature needs 46 lawmakers to back discussion of Lasso's removal for a debate to be convened.

His removal itself would require the support of 92 of the assembly's 137 lawmakers. Lasso himself can also dissolve the legislature and call for elections.

Government Minister Francisco Jimenez criticized the UNES move.

"We have been insistent on our willingness to have dialogue, we have made concessions, we have issued several decrees and even so it seems they want to impose irrationality on the country and we won't allow that," he told local radio. "We have an obligation to the country and we will carry it out."

Despite some government concessions, there has been little sign of a rapprochement between officials and protesters, who are led by indigenous group CONAIE.

Indigenous leaders have demanded the withdrawal of security forces and an end to special measures put in place for six provinces before the two sides can discuss a list of 10 indigenous demands, including lower fuel prices and a halt to oil and mining development.

Lasso has announced subsidized fertilizers, bank debt forgiveness, and budget increases for health and education. On Thursday, security forces withdrew from a cultural institution, allowing it to be used by protesters.

But violent confrontations overnight have raised tensions once again, though the CONAIE said it would hold a meeting on Friday to weigh a government response to its demands.

Armed people attacked a military convoy attempting to help truck drivers carrying food and medicine into capital Quito, said Edwin Adatty, the commander of the city's joint task force.

Seventeen personnel were injured and three vehicles burned, he said.

"We are not talking about a peaceful protest, we are talking about premeditated and coordinated acts of violence," he said.

Residents of the capital say supplies of domestic gas are running low, as are products in supermarkets.

The interior ministry has confirmed four deaths during the protests since they began and the health ministry has said two people died in ambulances delayed by road blockades.

Ecuador opposition lawmakers begin efforts to remove Lasso, protests rage on
 

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