Ecuador’s president announces fuel price cut as protests cripple output

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Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso announced Sunday the country will reduce rising fuel prices that sparked two weeks of protests, although not by as much as Indigenous groups behind the demonstrations had requested.

“I have decided to reduce the price of gasoline by 10 cents per gallon and diesel also by 10 cents per gallon,” he said in a radio and television address.

The announcement came as lawmakers were considering a motion of no confidence in the president.

Earlier Sunday, Ecuador’s energy ministry warned that oil production had reached a “critical” level and could be halted entirely within 48 hours if protests and roadblocks continue in the crisis-wracked South American country.

Nearly two weeks of Indigenous-led protests against rising fuel prices and living costs have crippled transportation in Ecuador, with roadblocks set up in 19 of the oil-rich country’s 24 provinces.

“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.”

“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.

Ecuador’s economy is highly dependent on oil revenues, with 65 percent of output exported in the first four months of 2022.

An estimated 14,000 protesters are taking part in the nationwide demonstrations, most of them in Quito.

Shortages are already being reported in the capital, where prices have soared.

Violence between police and demonstrators has reportedly left five dead, while about 500 people have been injured, according to various sources.

The National Assembly will eventually vote on whether to oust President Guillermo Lasso over what opposition lawmakers say is his role in the protests, with a no-confidence hearing resuming for a second day late Sunday.

Earlier in the day, Production Minister Julio Jose Prado said that public-private economic losses from the protests totaled $500 million.

“Each additional day of downtime represents $40 to $50 million lost,” he said on Sunday.

Overall losses since the protests began include 8.5 million liters of milk worth $13 million as well as $90 million in agricultural goods and livestock.

The tourism industry has seen cancellations rise to 80 percent, with losses amounting to at least $50 million.

Additionally, “in the flower farm sector, 12 days of shutdown resulted in $30 million in losses and damage to trucks and farms,” Prado said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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