Ecuador protesters take eight police officers hostage

Indigenous women protest in Ecuador

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Thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest an end to fuel subsidies

Eight police officers have been taken hostage in Ecuador amid ongoing demonstrations that have forced the government from the capital.

Indigenous demonstrators paraded the seven men and one woman on a stage in Quito before a crowd of thousands.

They are demanding the end of austerity measures and some even the resignation of President Lenín Moreno, who declared a state of emergency last week and moved to the second city of Guayaquil.

Several have died in the violence.

Protests began after the government announced an end to fuel subsidies last week, as part of a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Petrol prices soared and thousands took to the streets. In recent days, they have set up barricades, stormed buildings and clashed with security forces, who have tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas.

Indigenous-led protests have toppled three presidents in the past few decades. They have taken dozens of officers hostage in various locations throughout the country since the unrest began.

Uncompromising demonstrators

By Will Grant, BBC News

The eight police officers held by the protesters were forced onto a stage and made to remove their helmets, bullet-proof vests and boots.

The officers look visibly worried as they were paraded in front of an angry crowd in which many were incensed at several days of a heavy-handed police response to the demonstrations.

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Media captionFires and clashes as Quito descends into chaos

President Moreno has been pushing for further talks with the indigenous leaders but the rhetoric coming from the groups that took the police officers is uncompromising.

With some pushing for nothing less than the president’s resignation, it seems there will be more protests to come over the weekend: “We’re going to radicalize with more force,” an indigenous leader, Jaime Vargas, told the crowd.

Groups have set up barricades in Quito and clashed with security forces, with thousands more people pouring into the capital to join the protests.

Mr Moreno has said the fuel subsidies, which cost the government $1.3bn (£1bn) annually, were no longer affordable.

Eliminating the subsidies, introduced in the 1970s, are part of his plan to shore up Ecuador’s flagging economy and ease its debt burden.

The government has agreed to cut public spending as part of it loan deal agreed with the IMF in March, which allows Ecuador to borrow $4.2bn (£3.4bn).

Demonstrators demand that Mr Moreno tear up the agreement.

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