Ecuador protests: Police officers released after being taken hostage

BY BBC.COM - Oct 11, 2019 at 12:00pm 100

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Protesters in Ecuador have released ten police officers who were taken hostage amid violent demonstrations triggered by austerity measures.

Indigenous demonstrators paraded the officers, including one woman, on a stage in Quito before a crowd.

Before being freed, some of the officers were forced to carry the coffin of an indigenous activist allegedly killed during the unrest.

President Lenín Moreno was forced to move the government out of the capital.

The protesters, led by indigenous groups, are demanding the return of fuel subsidies, scrapped by the government last week. Some have called for the resignation of the president, who has declared a two-month national emergency.

On Thursday morning, the officers were detained at a cultural centre in Quito that has been used by thousands of indigenous protesters as their base since they arrived in the city last weekend.

In an evening address, Interior Minister María Paula Romo said they had been released along with some 30 journalists who were covering the incident and who had also been prevented from leaving the building.

Indigenous leaders - who have complained of excessive police force - say Inocencio Tucumbí, whose coffin was taken to the centre, died after being hit by a tear gas canister fired by the police at a protest on Wednesday.

But Ms Romo said Tucumbí died from a fall, without giving further details. Three other people have died as a result of the unrest so far, she said, adding that some 650 people have been detained by police.

Mr Moreno has said he will not quit and, without offering evidence, has accused his predecessor Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro of plotting to oust him.

The United Nations said it was ready to mediate after receiving a request from the government.