QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso on Saturday lifted a state of emergency he'd imposed in six provinces amid an Indigenous-led strike, a surprise move that came as lawmakers in the National Assembly heard an opposition petition to remove him from office.
The decision to end the state of emergency followed an initial meeting between government officials and Ecuador's largest Indigenous organization, which began the strike two weeks ago to demand gasoline prices be cut, price controls be imposed on agricultural products and a larger budget be set for education. Lasso had accused the Indigenous leader heading the at-times violent strike of seeking to stage a coup.
After Saturday's meeting, National Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela said a commission would be formed to facilitate dialogue to end the strike.
"The national government ratifies the willingness to guarantee the creation of spaces for peace, in which Ecuadorians can gradually resume their activities," said a statement announcing the decree to end the state of emergency.
The meeting was held in the Basilica church in the colonial center of Quito and was attended by the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, Leonidas Iza, other social leaders, Government Minister Francisco Jiménez and Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín, among others.
"There has been no commitment, but simply a decision by the (Indigenous confederation) ... to consult its bases on the designation of a commission to start this dialogue," Saquicela said, adding that "the government has made the corresponding opening."
Iza said the strike would not be ended until their demands had been met. "Instead of making us more afraid, they have raised our rebellion, dignity," he said.
Iza said strikers will rest for the weekend and asked that corridors be opened in the interprovincial border areas to allow food to pass through and supply Quito, which faces the shortage of farm products.
Meanwhile, in a virtual legislative session the opposition Union for Hope party, which is linked to former President Rafael Correa, requested the removal of Lasso. The request was based on the state of emergency declared over "grave internal commotions," which now has been lifted.
It would take the votes of at least 92 lawmakers to remove Lasso, while the Union for Hope has only 47 seats.
On Thursday, the Indigenous confederation said a demonstrator died of pellet wounds in the chest and abdomen while protesting near the National Assembly in Quito, where about 100 other people suffered a variety of injuries. Police tweeted that officers were also injured by pellets.
In Quito, protesters blocking roads have brought the city to a near halt and people are experiencing food and fuel shortages. Groups of protesters have roamed the city attacking vehicles and civilians and forcing the closure of businesses, some of which were looted.