Ecuador’s president has announced a cut in petrol prices amid two weeks of anti-government protests against the soaring cost of living in the country.
The reduction announced on Sunday cuts the price of petrol by 10 cents per gallon, falling short of a demand by the influential Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) to cut the price from $2.55 to $2.10 a gallon and diesel from $1.90 to $1.50.
CONAIE had called for the demonstrations, which began on June 13. To date, at least six people have been reported killed in clashes with security forces and dozens of others were arrested.
President Guillermo Lasso announced the concession a day after lifting a state of emergency that had been imposed in six provinces. Government officials also recently began talks with protest leaders.
“Ecuadorians who seek dialogue will find a government with an outstretched hand, those who seek chaos, violence and terrorism will face the full force of the law,” Lasso said in the televised address, saying the country must return to normality.
CONAIE did not immediately respond to the statement. Indigenous leaders have also demanded price controls on agricultural products and a larger budget be set for education.
The protests have crippled transport in Ecuador, with roadblocks set up in 19 of the oil-rich country’s 24 provinces.
Earlier on Sunday, the country’s energy ministry warned that oil production had reached a “critical” level and could be halted entirely within 48 hours if the protests and roadblocks continued.
“Oil production is at a critical level,” the ministry said in a statement.
“If this situation continues, the country’s oil production will be suspended in less than 48 hours as vandalism, the seizure of oil wells and road closures have prevented the transport of equipment and diesel needed to keep operations going,” the ministry said.
“Today, the figures show a decrease of more than 50 percent” in production, which was at roughly 520,000 barrels per day before the protests, it said.
Indigenous people make up about one million of Ecuador’s 17.7 million inhabitants and are disproportionately affected by rising inflation, unemployment and poverty that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Also on Sunday, the country’s parliament suspended seven hours of debate over whether to impeach Lasso, with proceedings set to resume on Tuesday.
At least 20 members of parliament are still due to speak.
The president’s impeachment would require 92 of the 137 possible votes in the National Assembly, where the opposition holds a fragmented majority.
MPs will have a maximum of 72 hours to vote following the end of the debate.