QUITO, ECUADOR – Thousands of Indigenous people continue to demonstrate in the Ecuadorian capital, as their calls for social and economic reforms grow louder despite a crackdown by authorities in the South American nation.
The protesters, predominantly led by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) group, began blocking roads and marching in provincial capitals on June 13 before bringing their demonstration to Quito.
Several key streets in the city have been blocked since Tuesday, as protesters engage in a standoff with police at major intersections near the city centre. Protests have also taken place in cities across the country, including Guayaquil, Cuenca and Riobamba.
Indigenous leaders have presented the government of President Guillermo Lasso with a list of 10 demands, including a freeze on national gas prices, greater investments in education and healthcare, and more jobs.
Demonstrators in the capital, including families with children and the elderly, told Al Jazeera that the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises over the past two years have hit them particularly hard. Many said they could no longer bear the burden of rising inflation and unemployment.
Lasso has said he would engage in dialogue, but CONAIE leaders say talks can only begin once the government lifts a state of emergency implemented this week.
In the meantime, the protests have at times turned violent, with clashes reported between demonstrators and police and the military.
The Ecuador Alliance for Human Rights said on Friday that at least four people have died since the protests began, while 166 protesters have been injured and 108 others detained. The general commander of the country’s national police force, Fausto Salinas, told reporters on Wednesday that 114 police officers were also injured.
Al Jazeera spoke to protesters in Quito about what pushed them into the streets, what they want from the government, and how long they plan to keep up their demonstrations.