Army deployed in Ecuador as protests descend into violence

Demonstrators in capital Quito attack television station and national government buildings

President Lenín Moreno ordered the army on to the streets of Ecuador’s capital Quito after a week and a half of protests over fuel prices devolved into violent incidents, with masked protesters attacking a television station, newspaper and the national auditor’s office.

Moreno said the military enforced curfew would begin at 3pm local time in response to violence in areas previously untouched by the protests. Masked protesters broke into the national auditor’s office and set it ablaze, sending black smoke billowing across the central Quito park and cultural complex that have been the epicentre of the protests.

Later, several dozen masked men swarmed the offices of the private Teleamazonas television station, set fires on the grounds and tried to break into the building where about 20 employees were trapped.

“They’re trying to enter the station, trying to break down the doors, we’re asking for help but the police aren’t coming,” one employee told the Associated Press.

A journalist with the newspaper El Comercio told the AP that the paper’s offices were also under attack. The building’s security guards were seized and tied up and attackers were trying to break into offices where journalists were hiding.

Moreno appeared on national television alongside his vice-president and defence minister to announce that he was ordering people indoors and sending the army on to the streets.

He blamed the violence on drug traffickers, organised crime and followers of former president Rafael Correa, who has denied allegations that he is trying to topple Moreno’s government.