1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Ecuador arrests top Indigenous protest leader

June 14, 2022

Ecuadorean police say they have detained Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza for "suspected offenses." The arrest came as he spearheaded nationwide protests against high fuel prices and rising living costs.

President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in Ecuador, Leonidas Iza
Police did not initially specify what crimes Iza was suspected of having committedImage: Cristina Vega Rhor/AFP/Getty Images

Police in Ecuador on Tuesday said they had arrested Leonidas Iza, the leader of an Indigenous movement protesting rising gas pump prices and a higher cost of living.

What do we know so far?

Officials said Iza, who has led the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), was now in custody and awaiting a hearing.

Police said they arrested Iza in the Pastocalle sector, south of Quito, which has been one of the focal points of roadblocks during the demonstrations.

"@PoliciaEcuador apprehended Leonidas I., in Pastocalle #Cotopaxi, for suspected offenses," police said on Twitter.

The protesters have blocked roads across the country and declared an ongoing protest to demand President Guillermo Lasso freeze fuel prices.

Demonstrators block the E-35 highway in Ecuador
The demonstrators are angered by the right-wing economic policies of President Guillermo LassoImage: Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo/picture alliance

Demonstrations turned violent on Monday, as protesters burned a patrol car and attacked police officers.

"No one is above the law, Ecuadoreans cannot be victims of vandals who only want to provoke chaos," Lasso said early on Tuesday. The president added that he had initiated the arrest of the "intellectual and material perpetrators" of violent actions.

Indigenous group demands response

CONAIE published a video of Iza's detention on Tuesday morning and described the action as "violent, illegal and arbitrary."

"We call for a great Indigenous and popular uprising for the freedom of our top leader," it added.

As well as lowering fuel prices, CONAIE also wants Lasso to impose a moratorium on small farmers' bank debts and to limit oil and mining expansion in the country.

In 2019, protests led by CONAIE resulted in 11 deaths and forced then-president Lenin Moreno to abandon plans to do away with fuel subsidies.

The group is also said to have been instrumental in the ousting of three other presidents between 1997 and 2005.

Even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has led to higher fuel prices worldwide, Lasso was under pressure for increasing the price of gas

rc/wd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)