Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso has declared a state of emergency in three provinces where recent anti-government protests by Indigenous people have been concentrated.
"I am committed to defending our capital and our country," Lasso said on television late Friday.
Capital Quito is among the three provinces.
Students, workers and other supporters have also joined the protests.
Roads across the country, including highways to Quito, have been blockaded by the protesters.
At least 43 people have been injured in clashes with security forces.
The state of emergency allows the president to call out the armed forces to maintain order, suspend civil rights and declare curfews.
What are the protests about?
Oil producer Ecuador has been marred by increasing inflation, unemployment and poverty augmented by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fuel prices in Ecuador have seen a sharp spike since 2020, almost doubling for diesel from $1 (€0.95) to $1.90 per gallon (3.8 liters) while petrol has risen from $1.75 to $2.55.
The powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which was instrumental in toppling three Ecuadorian presidents between 1997 and 2005, has called for the protests.
Conaie has said it would continue the blockades until the government meets a list of 10 demands.
The organization wants the fuel rates to be slashed to $1.50 for diesel and $2.10 for petrol, a demand that the government has rejected so far.
Food price controls and renegotiating the personal bank loans of nearly four million families are some of the other demands put forth by Conaie.
How has the president responded?
While declaring the state of emergency on Friday, Lasso also tried to ease grassroots anger by announcing new measures.
He announced an increase in the value of a state bond given to the country's poorest and also a program to ease the debt of those who have loans from state-run banks.
Lasso, who has been in power for a year now, had met with Indigenous leaders on Thursday in an attempt to dissuade tensions but the talks appeared to yield nothing.
dvv/aw (AFP, EFE)