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The BBC's Jeremy McDermott reports
"The sense of crisis has abated somewhat but President Mahuad is by no means out of the woods"
 real 28k

Sunday, 16 January, 2000, 11:33 GMT
Ecuadorean protests flop

Troops protect the congress building in Quito


Anticipated mass protests by indigenous groups in Ecuador have failed to materialise.

Groups calling for the resignation of President Jamil Mahuad failed to mobilise supporters in significant numbers.

About 30,000 troops and police had been deployed in major cities across Ecuador in readiness for the anti-government demonstrations.

The protests were supposed to bring hundreds of thousands of Ecuador's five million indigenous Indians out onto the streets, paralysing the country for an indefinite period in a popular uprising.


An indigenous Indian walks past a soldier on his way to the protests

Few people turned up for the protests. Indigenous groups said that they had blocked a number of major roads around the country.

A disappointed head of the Confederation of Ecuadorean Indigenous Nationalities, Antonio Vargas, said: "The uprising is progressive, it's going to go slowly. On Monday we'll evaluate how far we have come."

The protesters are calling for the resignation of President Mahuad, the dissolution of the congress and the court systems. They also want the formation of a 'government of national salvation'.

Dollarisation

Most controversial of all is the president's plan to peg the Ecuadorean currency, the sucre, to the US dollar.

On Saturday he urged congress to quickly pass the plan as troops gathered on the streets of the capital Quito to deal with the protests.

"If we don't approve the law, the currency will fall, investment will flee, unemployment will rise and Ecuador will have no hope," Mr Mahuad said.


President Mahuad urges congress to adopt the US Dollar

The president's theory is that adopting the dollar as the official currency will stabilise the ailing economy, which is suffering 60% inflation, the highest in Latin America.

Analysts maintain the dollarisation will only buy the president some breathing-space and that opposition will build up again.

This is unless the president can take significant measures to improve the economy in a country where 60% of the population that lives below the poverty line

More protests expected

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott, says the sense of crisis has abated somewhat, but the president is by no means out of the woods.

An indefinite oil-workers strike is still planned to start on Monday and indigenous groups have vowed to paralyse the country by Tuesday.

Ecuadorean Indians, whose leaders have gained considerable political power over the past decade, have been particularly angered by the decision to adopt the dollar.

They view the national currency, the sucre, as a symbol of national sovereignty and believe replacing it will only intensify the country's economic woes.

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See also:
15 Jan 00 |  Americas
Ecuador braced for protests
10 Jan 00 |  Americas
Ecuadorian cabinet out
09 Jan 00 |  Americas
Ecuador army backs president
06 Jan 00 |  Americas
Protesters defy state of emergency
12 Jul 99 |  Americas
Ecuador: President bows to strikers
06 Jul 99 |  Americas
State of emergency declared in Ecuador
12 Mar 99 |  Americas
Ecuador faces tough medicine
10 Mar 99 |  Americas
Ecuador protesters clash with police

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