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Ecuador will not return to talks with indigenous leader Iza

Ecuador will not return to talks with indigenous leader Iza
By Reuters
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By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO -Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso said in a video on Tuesday that his government will not return to negotiations with indigenous leader Leonidas Iza, which were taking place in a bid to end more than two weeks of protests.

Largely indigenous demonstrators have been marching to protest high fuel and food prices since June 13, and at least eight people have been killed in connection with the marches. Road blockades associated with the protests have led to shortages of food in supermarkets and medical supplies in hospitals.

The government has made significant concessions to marchers, Lasso said. It has agreed to a gasoline price cut, debt forgiveness and subsidies for fertilizers, among other demands, though Iza said on Monday that the price cut was not enough.

His government is open to talks, Lasso said, but not with Iza.

"We will not return to dialogue with Leonidas Iza, who only defends his political interests and not those of his base. To our indigenous brothers - you deserve more than an opportunist for a leader," Lasso said.

The country cannot dialogue with those keeping it "hostage" Lasso added, sending his condolences to the family of a soldier killed in an attack on a military convoy and to 12 others who were injured.

The convoy was accompanying 17 diesel tankers from the Shushufindi refinery to the ITT oil field when they were attacked by a group of people carrying guns, the defense ministry said.

"Only when there are legitimate representatives of all the peoples and ethnicities of Ecuador, who seek real solutions and who are open to a real and frank dialogue, will we return to the negotiating table," Lasso said.

Iza, who had been waiting at the site of talks for government representatives to appear, said he would consult with his supporters before responding to Lasso.

His organization, CONAIE, tweeted that Lasso's cancellation of talks confirmed his "authoritarianism, lack of willingness and incapacity," and that the president is responsible for the consequences.

Blockades have prevented the transport of supplies to oil blocs operated by state-owned Petroecuador and private companies, the government has said.

Over the weekend, the energy ministry said operations might have to be halted on Tuesday. As of Monday, total oil production was at 234,496 barrels per day (bpd), less than half the output of about 520,000 bpd before the protests.

The ITT field - Ecuador's largest - was operating normally and produced more than 52,000 bpd on Monday, according to Petroecuador.

Petroecuador has said it had no crude to transport through its SOTE pipeline. A company source who asked not to be named said the firm was looking at whether it would need to delay exports, but production would likely not be forced to stop for several more days.

Lasso's adversarial relationship with the national assembly has worsened during the protests.

Lawmakers are set to continue debate on Tuesday on an effort to remove Lasso from office, though it appears opposition groups lack the necessary support for the measure to succeed.

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