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, though other lawmakers say they will not support his resignation.
Demonstrations that began on 13 June have resulted in at least six civilian deaths and numerous attacks on security forces.
The protests have worsened Lasso’s already hostile relationship with the National Assembly, whose lawmakers blocked his major economic proposals as he struggled to contain an increase in violence he blames on drug gangs.
Lawmakers from the UNES opposition movement, loyal to former left-wing President Rafael Correa, called on Twitter for the postponement of elections scheduled for 2025.
The constitution allows legislators to remove presidents and call elections during times of political crisis or riots.
“The country can no longer tolerate this,” UNES MP Fausto Jarrín said. Jarrin formally asked the legislature to convene a debate on the removal process. “Dialogue is interrupted by all parties with violence.”
Lawmakers from other parties will individually support the effort, Jarrin said.
Removing Lasso would require the support of 92 of the 137 assembly deputies. Lasso can also dissolve the legislature and call an election.
The government criticized the UNES decision, saying it had made significant concessions with its decree and was ready to discuss these issues. Lawmakers from three other parties, including Lasso’s party, have rejected a proposal to overthrow him and said they are maintaining dialogue between the government and indigenous groups.
Despite some concessions from the government, there are few signs of rapprochement between officials and protesters, led by the indigenous group CONAIE.
Indigenous leaders demanded the withdrawal of security forces and the lifting of special measures imposed in six provinces before the two sides could discuss a list of 10 indigenous demands, including lower fuel prices and a halt to oil and mining.
Lasso announced fertilizer subsidies, bank debt write-offs, and increased health and education budgets. On Thursday, security forces left the cultural facility, allowing protesters to use it.
But violent clashes during the night and isolated incidents on Friday afternoon sparked tensions again, with CONAIE leader Leonidas Iza saying he supported attempts to remove Lasso.
On Friday, CONAIE held a meeting to gauge the government’s response to its demands.
Lasso attempted to discredit Iza in a social media video broadcast on Friday afternoon, saying he was committed to addressing indigenous issues and encouraging demonstrators to return home.
“Mr. Isa’s real intention is to overthrow the government,” Lasso said. “The national police and the armed forces will take the necessary measures for protection in accordance with the law, applying the gradual use of force.”
Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo told reporters that the security forces were not fighting demonstrators but criminals armed with firearms who had infiltrated the marches.
Violence will be met with rubber balls, he said. On Friday, security forces fired tear gas.
Seventeen soldiers were injured and three vehicles burned in an attack on a military convoy trying to help truck drivers delivering food and medicine to the capital, Quito, officials said.
Residents of Quito say that supplies of domestic gas are running out, as well as groceries in supermarkets.
The Interior Ministry confirmed four deaths during the protests, and the Health Ministry said two people died in ambulances delayed by road closures.
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