January 25, 2001

Ecuador Indian protests intensify after clash

                  QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) -- More than 1,000 Indians marched Thursday in the
                  Ecuadorian highlands to protest against government-mandated fuel price hikes
                  and a military crackdown on demonstrations, in which 11 people were injured
                  this week.

                  In Cotopaxi province, some 50 miles south of Ecuador's capital, about 1,500
                  Indians Wednesday tried to block the Pan-American highway -- the main
                  roadway stretching from Alaska through South America-- but were dispersed in
                  a clash with the military that left 10 Indians and one soldier injured.

                  A member of the military was kidnapped during the incident when soldiers tried
                  to spray tear gas to disperse the crowd, the armed services said.

                  The vice president of Ecuador's National Confederation of Indians, Ricardo
                  Ulcuango, warned that the government's "lack of response" would lead to
                  intensifying protests.

                  "If the government does not decide to repeal the economic measures adopted last
                  month, our communities will march to the capital," he told Reuters.

                  Students, teachers and trade unions have staged mass marches over the past
                  three and a half weeks to protest against a 75 percent rise in municipal bus fares
                  and a 25 percent hike in the most-widely used gasoline to $1 per gallon.

                  In Quito, protesting public university students have hurled Molotov cocktails and
                  dynamite at police, who responded with tear gas.

                  Ecuador, an Andean nation of 12.4 million people, is struggling to consolidate
                  political stability after a military and Indian uprising toppled President Jamil
                  Mahuad last year and catapulted then-vice president Gustavo Noboa to power.

                  A week ago, Ecuador's high military command said it would crack down on any
                  groups that use popular protests to try and destabilize the government.

                     Copyright 2001 Reuters.