The umbrella indigenous organisation CONAIE says demonstrations would continue until President Lenin Moreno withdraws last week's measure to eliminate fuel subsidies.

Protests against Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno's austerity measures in Quito.
Protests against Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno's austerity measures in Quito. (Reuters)

Indigenous protesters paralysed roads around Ecuador and blocked a main highway into the capital on Monday in a fifth day of action against government austerity measures that have sparked the worst unrest in years, resulting in 477 arrests.

The umbrella indigenous organisation CONAIE said demonstrations would continue until President Lenin Moreno withdraws last week's measure to eliminate fuel subsidies.

"More than 20,000 of us will be arriving in Quito to demand that the government overturn the decree," CONAIE President Jaime Vargas told a news conference, saying that mobilisation would coincide with a national strike planned for Wednesday.

Moreno, 66, who has abandoned his predecessor and one-time mentor Rafael Correa's leftist policies says he will neither tolerate disorder nor overturn the fuel price hike that is part of a liberal economic reform package.

Interior Minister Paula Romo told local Radio Quito that detentions had risen to 477 since Thursday, mainly for vandalism, including the destruction of a dozen ambulances.

Indigenous and workers' movements again blocked roads on Monday, from the Andean highlands to the Pacific coast, with stones, tires and burning branches.

The northern entry to Quito was paralysed.

Police erected barricades around the presidential palace, closing off the downtown area while Moreno presided over a government security council meeting to assess the crisis.

Large debt

Indigenous-led protests brought down three presidents in the years before Correa's rule.

In a national address on Sunday night, Moreno reiterated calls for dialogue. "I want to talk with the indigenous brothers, with whom we share causes," he said, adding that resources would be set aside to help the poor and compensate for price rises.

The government is struggling with a large foreign debt and fiscal deficit and earlier this year reached a $4.2 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund that hinges on belt-tightening reforms.

As well as ending fuel subsidies, the government is trimming the state workforce and planning some privatizations. Moreno says the fuel subsidies, in place for four decades, had distorted the economy and cost $60 billion.

Source: Reuters