Ecuador Arrests Indigenous Leader The Arrest Comes a Day After Violent Clashes with Police

Police in Ecuador have arrested indigenous Indian leader Antonio Vargas as mass protests against government austerity measures continue to gather pace.

Mr Vargas has crossed into territory where he will have to answer to the law

Interior Minister Juan Manrique
Interior Minister Juan Manrique accused Mr Vargas, who has been leading the demonstrations, of inciting rebellion.

A year ago, Mr Vargas led an uprising that eventually toppled the then President, Jamil Mahuad.

His arrest comes as Indians continue to mass in the capital, Quito, to protest against economic policy.

Mr Vargas has successfully led protests before

The authorities have also detained Luis Villacis, who heads a coalition of unions, farmers groups and small businesses involved in protests over the past month.

On Monday, police used teargas to break up a rally by thousands of demonstrators who had blocked main roads in Quito vowing to take over the city.

"Mr Vargas has entered a territory where he will have to answer to the law," Mr Manrique said.

One of the Indian leader's deputies vowed, however, that the protests would go on.

"No-one is going to stop us with this detention of our comrade president. We will not halt the uprising," said Ricardo Ulcuango.

IMF aid package

President Noboa's reforms are starting to bite

Mr Vargas and his supporters say sharp cuts in fuel subsidies and rising bus fares are hurting the nation's poor.

The measures are part of radical reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for a $2bn aid package aimed at bailing out Ecuador's ailing economy.

The country's four million Indians - who make up about a third of the population - have been particularly hard hit.

Under President Gustavo Noboa's three-year austerity plan - which includes adopting the US dollar as the national currency - domestic heating oil prices have shot up by 100% and petrol prices by 20% in the past two months.

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