Ecuador police requisition cultural center under state of emergency

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Ecuadoran police requisitioned an Indigenous cultural center in Quito on Sunday to use as a base for monitoring anti-government protests by Indigenous people, the institution said.

"The national police notified (us of) the requisition of the place, under the state of emergency," the House of Ecuadorian Culture said.

President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency on Friday in three provinces, including the capital Quito, in a bid to end the sometimes violent demonstrations.

The state of emergency empowers Lasso to mobilize the armed forces to maintain order, suspend civil rights and declare curfews.

The powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which has been credited with helping topple three presidents between 1997 and 2005, called the protests to demand cheaper fuel and food price controls.

The Indigenous community represents more than one million of Ecuador's 17.7 million inhabitants, and their protest has been joined by students, workers and others.

The demonstrations have blocked roads across the country, including highways leading into Quito.

Oil producer Ecuador has been hit by rising inflation, unemployment and poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fuel prices have risen sharply since 2020, almost doubling for diesel from $1 to $1.90 per gallon and rising from $1.75 to $2.55 for petrol.

The requisition of the House of Ecuadorian Culture -- home to theaters, cinemas, a museum and a library -- came on the eve of the arrival of more Indigenous protesters in the capital, where a seven-hour nighttime curfew is in effect.

The center sheltered thousands of Indigenous people in October 2019 during violent demonstrations against rising fuel prices that left 11 dead and more than 1,000 injured.

"National police and soldiers entered" the building and "hundreds of armed elements besieged it," the Ecuadorian House of Culture said in a statement.

"Joy has died tonight, the House of Culture has fallen into the hands of police terror, we live in a dictatorship," Fernando Ceron, president of the cultural center, tweeted on Sunday.

Ceron also tweeted a copy of the police requsition order.

Talks with President Lasso have failed to end the demonstrations.

Clashes with security forces during the protests over the past week have left at least 83 people injured, and 40 have been arrested.

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