Ecuador violence: Protesters agree to talks with government

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Media caption,

Clashes, chaos, fire and smoke engulf Quito

The UN says representatives of Ecuador's government and the country's indigenous groups will hold their first direct talks later on Sunday in a bid to end days of violent protests.

Protesters are demanding the return of fuel subsidies which the government scrapped as part of austerity measures.

Reports say President Lenín Moreno has agreed to reassess the subsidies, but not necessarily repeal them.

Nearly two weeks of unrest have left much of the capital, Quito, in chaos.

On Saturday, President Moreno announced a curfew would be imposed in Quito and surrounding areas, enforced by the military.

"I've ordered the joint command of the armed forces to immediately take steps necessary to re-establish order in all of Ecuador," he said in a televised address.

The armed forces said movement would be restricted across the country for 24 hours. Ecuador is already subject to a two-month national emergency.

Mr Moreno also revealed that protesters had agreed to direct talks for the first time.

In a statement later on Twitter, the UN said talks between the two sides would take place in Quito at 15:00 (20:00 GMT).

Image source, Reuters
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Police have fired tear gas to try to disperse angry crowds
Image source, Getty Images
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Women's groups marched through Quito demanding a peaceful solution to the crisis

Members of the indigenous umbrella group CONAIE had previously rejected calls for the talks but agreed on the condition that they be broadcast and not held behind closed doors, according to reports.

Earlier on Saturday, protesters attacked a television station and newspaper office in Quito. The Teleamazonas channel broadcast pictures of its broken windows and a burning vehicle. El Comercio newspaper tweeted that a "group of unknowns" had attacked its offices. No injuries were reported in either incident.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
TV station Teleamazonas was targeted by protesters

Elsewhere, masked men threw petrol bombs at a government building in Quito housing the comptroller general's office and then overran it.

On Twitter, Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said the area around the building was being evacuated so fire crews could put out the flames. She said 30 people had been arrested outside the building.

What's the background?

Protests began after the government announced an end to fuel subsidies as part of public spending cuts agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for a loan. The deal reached in March will allow Ecuador to borrow $4.2bn (£3.4bn).

Mr Moreno has said the fuel subsidies, introduced in the 1970s with an annual cost of $1.3bn, were no longer affordable. Eliminating them is part of his plan to shore up Ecuador's flagging economy and ease its debt burden.

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Protesters in Quito chant: "Women united will never be defeated!"

Petrol prices soared and thousands took to the streets. In recent days, they set up barricades, stormed buildings and clashed with security forces, who have tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas.

Protesters have also entered some oil fields, affecting production in the Andean nation, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Some have also called for the resignation of the president.

Indigenous-led protests have toppled three presidents in the past few decades. Since the current unrest began, protesters have taken dozens of officers hostage in various locations throughout the country .