Eight police officers and more than 20 journalists are being held hostage by indigenous, anti-government protesters at Ágora de la Casa de la Cultura in Quito as of Thursday, October 10, as the death toll from nationwide protests and clashes between protesters and security forces has increased to five. The captive police officers were reportedly unharmed as of Thursday. The protests, sparked by President Lenín Moreno's recent cancelation of fuel subsidies, prompted the US State Department to advise against all travel within and between Ecuadorian cities due to civil unrest on Wednesday, October 9.
A government-issued curfew has remained in place around government buildings and other state installations, including airports and oil refineries, since Tuesday, October 8. Under the curfew, movement is restricted between 20:00 and 05:00 (local time). The Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources of Ecuador said that the country's main oil pipeline ceased operations from 13:00 on Tuesday due to the occupation of several oil fields by protesters. The ministry also reported power disruptions on Tuesday following the protesters' occupation of Central Pucará power plant.
The government reportedly began talks with indigenous leaders on Wednesday. However, President Moreno has said that he will not reverse the austerity measures, and indigenous groups have said they will not stop demonstrating until fuel subsidies are reinstated.
Further protests and strike actions and consequent disruptions to business and transportation are to be expected in major urban centers in Ecuador over the coming days. Accompanying clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Several civil society groups and unions began protesting and striking on October 3 in response to President Moreno's announcement on October 1 that the government would eliminate nearly USD 1.3 billion in fuel subsidies to reduce the country's fiscal deficit. Prices of gasoline and diesel fuel are expected to increase significantly as a result of the measure, which came into effect on October 3. The Ecuadorian government has declared a two-month state of emergency and deployed military and police forces to reopen roads and restore order in protest-affected areas. President Moreno moved his government from Quito to Guayaquil following violent protests that vandalized the assembly building in the capital on October 7.
Individuals in Ecuador are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations, anticipate a heightened security presence and associated disruptions to transportation and business, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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