Protesters and police clash again in Ecuador capital

Quito (AFP) –


Riot police clashed with indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador's capital on Friday as deadly protests against fuel price hikes stretched into a 10th day.

Protesters responded to volleys of tear-gas with homemade mortars and fireworks fired through tubes, turning the area around the Congress building in Quito into a battleground.

Indigenous groups have spearheaded demands that President Lenin Moreno reinstate fuel subsidies that were cut last week after his government agreed a $4.2 billion loan with the IMF.

On Thursday, their leaders called for a "radicalization" of the protests that have brought much of the capital to a standstill and forced Moreno to relocate his government to Ecuador's second city, Guayaquil.

Apawki Ctro, spokesman for umbrella group CONAIE, said around 1,000 more indigenous people arrived in the city on Friday and another group is arriving to bolster the demonstrators.

CONAIE claimed around 20,000 indigenous people arrived in the capital last weekend from disadvantaged outlying communities in the Amazon and the Andes.

They joined trade union workers and students in a major protest against the subsidy cuts on Wednesday. It ended violently, leaving four protesters dead, including an indigenous leader.

The deaths announced on Thursday brought the overall toll in the protests to five. The first victim was hit by a vehicle on Sunday in the southern province of Azuay.

Struggling to deal with an economic crisis, Moreno has accused his predecessor and ex-ally Rafael Correa along with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of an "attempted coup d'etat" using indigenous groups.

Maduro, a leftist firebrand whom Washington is seeking to oust, has denounced allegations of involvement as absurd, but praised the "popular insurrection" against the IMF.