Fuel Price Cuts Follow Ecuador Protests Antonio Vargas Arrives for Presidential Talks AP

Weeks of violent protests in Ecuador have forced the president to cut fuel prices in an agreement with indigenous leaders. Clashes over fuel and transport price hikes have resulted in at least four deaths and dozens more injuries in the last two weeks. Last week a state of emergency was announced with the army sent onto the streets to quell demonstrations.
However, an 80-strong delegation of indigenous leaders agreed to end the demonstrations after signing an agreement with President Gustavo Noboa.

Noboa initially refused talks

Mr Noboa, the nation's fourth president in as many years, has agreed to limit prices on the cooking fuels which are crucial to poor Andean families.

In the deal signed by Antonio Vargas, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, the price of gas will be cut to $1.60, down from $2 per 15kg tank.

The price of other fuels will be frozen for a year, except for higher-grade (super) petrol.

It was a compromise for Indian leaders who had asked that gas be cut to $1.50, and that general fuel tariffs remain unchanged for two years.

Fuel prices doubled

The president initially refused talks but backed down when oil industry, public health and education workers threatened to join labourers and students in a general strike on Wednesday.

Their protests began on 29 January after the government doubled domestic fuel prices and upped public transport costs 75% under reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund.

For over a week, about 4,000 protestors camped at Quito's Salesian University - the most visible show of force in a nationwide protest.

Hunger strikes

Ruth Penafiel, 34, an Amazon community leader, was one of 31 people who refused to eat for days, drinking only soft drinks and water prepared with essential salts and sugar.

"There used to be fear among protesters. Now there is none of that," she said on Wednesday.

There were similar protests last year by indigenous groups, supported by some military officers, which led to the toppling of then-President Jamil Mahuad.

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