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Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso said Friday that Indigenous people staging sometimes violent protests for the past 12 days are trying to overthrow him.
Shortly after he spoke, thousands of protesters throwing rocks and shooting off fireworks again clashed with police near the congress building in Quito. Police and soldiers repelled them with tear gas.
"The real intention of these violent people is to stage a coup," Lasso said in a speech in which he again offered dialogue to end the protests over fuel prices and the cost of living.
The demonstrations have led to clashes that have left six people dead and dozens injured.
An estimated 14,000 protesters are taking part in the mass show of discontent countrywide against rising hardship in an economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the ire is concentrated on the capital Quito, where some 10,000 people, most from other parts of the country, are protesting.
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Six of the country's 24 provinces are under a state of emergency and a night-time curfew is in place in Quito.
Protesters are demanding a cut in already subsidized fuel prices, which have risen sharply in recent months, as well as jobs, food price controls, and more public spending on healthcare and education.
But the action has been costly, with losses of some $50 million per day to the economy, and production of fuel -- Ecuador's biggest export -- halved, according to the energy ministry.
On Thursday, protesters won a limited concession from Lasso. He granted them access, "for the sake of dialogue and peace," to a cultural center emblematic of the Indigenous struggle that had been commandeered by police.
Hours later, however, a group of protesters headed for Congress, where police fired tear gas in response to a barrage of rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails.
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