Participants are discussing many issues, including fuel price cuts, employment, labour rights and mining policies, after weeks of disruptive protests in the South American country.

"We came with humility but we cannot be humiliated," says Leonidas Iza, who heads the CONAIE Indigenous group. (AP Archive)

Ecuador's government and leaders from Indigenous groups have begun talks on subsidies, debt forgiveness and other deals, the result of weeks of anti-government protests.

Also to be discussed in Wednesday's talks are employment and labour rights, price controls and government efforts to expand oil and mining development to raise national income, which indigenous groups oppose.

"We repeat our willingness to dialogue...but we need to stop the denigrations," said Leonidas Iza, who heads the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE), as talks opened. 

"We came with humility but we cannot be humiliated."

Demonstrations erupted on June 13 and ran for more than a fortnight, leaving eight dead and severely impacting Ecuador's oil industry, its main source of income. 

Demonstrators forced immediate fuel price cuts and promise to modify oil and mining policies.

A deal to end the demonstrations requires some 90 days of negotiations taking place on 10 topics, beginning with efforts to focus gasoline subsidies on sectors that need them most and a review of debts held by small-scale farmers at public and private banks.

President Guillermo Lasso, a conservative ex-banker, has said protests were financed with money from drug trafficking and the government is investigating possible criminal connections.

Gasoline subsidies

Previously, governments have discussed implementing limited gasoline subsidies, but because rising prices affect many vulnerable groups they have had to enact across-the-board cuts.

Between January and May, this year subsidies on gasoline and diesel cost the government $1.7 billion, according to the energy ministry.

"We are here showing up, with our contingent of government officials who are willing to seriously address the solutions that the country needs," said government minister Francisco Jimenez. 

"There will be issues which we must debate and on which we will have different views."

The government plans to spend $1.4 billion on social programmes during the remainder of 2022.

Source: Reuters