Ecuador arrests taxi leader as fuel price strike continues

Ecuadoran authorities dispatched military vehicles to ferry civilian passengers Friday and arrested several transport union leaders in efforts to halt a strike that shut down taxi, bus and other services in response to a sudden rise in fuel prices.

President Lenín Moreno, who earlier declared a state of emergency over the strike, vowed Friday that he wouldn’t back down on the decision to end costly fuel subsidies, which doubled the price of diesel overnight and sharply raised gasoline prices.

He said the subsidy has been harmful to the national economy, costing billions over a number of years.

“There will be a mechanism to alleviate the effects that (the end of the subsidy) could have on some sectors, of course,” he said, “and we are ready to do that, but under no circumstances will we change the measure.”

The streets of Quito were filled with people trekking to work on foot or seeking rides from friends and strangers as the strike entered a second day.

The government said about 350 people had been detained for blocking traffic, interrupting public services or attacking police.

Government Minister María Paula Romo said that national taxi drivers’ leader Jorge Calderón had been detained for paralyzing a public service, while officials said two regional transport officials also were detained.

President Lenín Moreno declared a state of emergency on Thursday to confront the strike and scattered street clashes between protesters and police.

Moreno this week eliminated fuel subsidies in order to cope with budget problems and announced other measures, including labor reforms, meant to help stimulate the economy.