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Tensions simmer in Ecuador as protesters and police seek to ease standoff

Hopes for a negotiated end to the worst unrest in Ecuador in at least a decade dimmed on Friday as clashes between police and anti-austerity protesters continued for a ninth day in the highland capital Quito.

Despite offers by the United Nations to mediate talks five days ago, President Lenin Moreno and protest organisers remain in a deadlock.

But seeking to break the impasse, a group of women in the protest approach a police line to seek an informal truce directly between officers and the demonstrators.

The unrest has led Moreno’s government to flee the capital for a safer city on the coast and curbed nearly 900,000 barrels of crude production in the OPEC-member nation. At least four protesters have died in the unrest and hundreds have been wounded and arrested.

Moreno has repeatedly refused to reinstate a four-decade old fuel subsidy, the chief demand of protesters who say its removal disproportionately punishes the poor.

Moreno announced the measure as parts of his efforts to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit, in keeping with a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But opponents say it has pushed up prices of many consumer goods and will increase inequality in the South American country of 17 million people.

(Production: Herbert Villarraga, Cristina Munoz)

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