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Indian leader rejects Ecuadorean president’s call to end anti-US free trade protests

Indian leader rejects Ecuadorean president’s call to end anti-U.S. free trade protests


QUITO, Ecuador (AP) - The leader of Ecuador’s main Indian movement on Thursday rejected President Alfredo Palacio’s call to end protests against free-trade talks with the United States.

"We will continue to mobilize and radicalize the protests in favor of life and against the free-trade agreement," Luis Macas, leader of Ecuador’s main Indian movement, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, said in a statement. "There will be neither dialogue nor contact with the government."

Police, however, said the protest was slowing as provincial governors called for an end to the protest following government pledges to invest more on social spending and public works in their areas.

In the face of the unrest, Palacio went on national television Wednesday and urged Ecuadorans to "close ranks" to defend the country’s democracy. The president said the protests were "the culmination of deceptive politics that seeks to perversely tear apart the nation."

CONAIE began blockading roads and highways Monday and has threatened to overthrow Palacio’s government if he signs a free-trade pact with the U.S.

The confederation also has demanded that Ecuador cancel oil concession granted to U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp., which has been embroiled in tax and contract disputes with Ecuador’s government since August 2004.

Macas’ organization accused Palacio of reaching a "compromise with the nation’s oligarchies" and "committing the country to a process of no return with the signing of a free trade deal with the United States."

Deputy Interior Minister Felipe Vega said the government would continue to seek talks with Indian leaders but would not budge on free trade negotiations.

The U.S. on Feb. 27 wrapped up talks to eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers with Colombia, the second Andean nation to reach a free trade deal with the United States.

The agreement with Colombia followed a deal wrapped up in December with Peru. Negotiations are still under way with Ecuador. Bolivia has participated as an observer and could become part of the agreement at a later date.

 source: AP