Protests in Ecuador: trial of indigenous leader Leonidas Iza begins

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Protests in Ecuador: start of the trial of indigenous leader Leonidas Iza

The leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador faces three years in prison.

The trial of indigenous leader Leonidas Iza began on Monday in Ecuador, where he is accused of organizing the blocking of roads during protests that left six dead and lost a billion dollars to the economy, according to the government.

The trial is taking place in the town of Latacunga, 80 km south of Quito.

It is in this jurisdiction where Leonidas Iza, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), was arrested on June 14. He was released on bail 24 hours later.

The indigenous leader, who on June 30 signed an agreement with the government of conservative President Guillermo Lasso to end 18 days of mobilization, was present at the hearing.

According to Raul Ilaquiche, one of his lawyers, the trial could last several days due to the number of witnesses.

The Office of the Ombudsman, a public body that oversees the respect for human rights, tweeted that its delegates were present at the hearing to follow the trial, which is taking place behind closed doors.

Leonidas Iza is charged with paralysis of a public service, an offense punishable by three years in prison.

Protests against the government began on June 13 to challenge fuel price hikes.

According to Latacunga authorities, some 2,000 people gathered peacefully outside the court to express their support for the indigenous leader.

While central Quito has been particularly affected by the protest, authorities say road blockades have targeted 19 of the country's 24 provinces. A thousand oil wells have also been blocked in the Amazon.

According to Guillermo Avellan, President of the Central Bank, the 18 days of protest have caused the country to lose; economy 1 billion dollars, or 775 million in the private sector and 225 million in the public sector.

Oil production, which reached 520,000 barrels per day on the eve of the protest, halved during the crisis. It rose to 461,600 barrels on Sunday, according to the Ministry of Energy

The agreement signed between the government and CONAIE provides in particular for a drop in fuel prices , which has already entered into force.

CONAIE participated in the overthrow of three presidents between 1997 and 2005, and won its showdown in 2019 with the former president Lenin Moreno (2017-2021) against the end of a fuel subsidy.

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