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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 08:46 GMT
'No end' to Ecuador trade protest
Protests in Ecuador
The protesters say their native culture will suffer under the deal
Ecuador's indigenous leaders have vowed to keep up protests over the prospect of a free trade agreement with the US.

Thousands of Indians have blocked major roads since Monday, calling for a referendum on Ecuador's entry into a free trade pact with the US.

The deal puts them at a disadvantage, they say, and will harm their culture.

Ecuador's government has said it will defend the country's interests as it negotiates the deal and has described calls for a referendum as premature.

Ecuador is set to enter a final round of the free trade talks on 23 March.

Ecuador's neighbours, Colombia and Peru, have both already signed the agreement.

A protest leader, Cesar Umajinga, told the BBC a trade deal with the US would only benefit the wealthy.

Police have been sent to guard highways north and south of the capital, Quito, but no violence has been reported, according to the Reuters news agency.

The unrest over the trade talks follows two strikes in the oil industry.

Correspondents say they will put added pressure on President Alfredo Palacio as he prepares for elections in October.

President Palacio took office after his predecessor, Lucio Gutierrez, was forced out last year.

Ecuador emergency over oil strike
08 Mar 06 |  Americas
Deal ends Ecuadorian oil crisis
26 Aug 05 |  Americas
Protests halt Ecuador oil exports
19 Aug 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Ecuador
04 Jan 06 |  Country profiles

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