QUITO — Ecuador has arrested 477 people during unrest and protests since last week over President Lenin Moreno's economic austerity measures, the government said on Monday.
Interior Minister Paula Romo told local Radio Quito that the detentions were mainly for vandalism including the destruction of a dozen ambulances.
Moreno, 66, who has moved away from his predecessor and one-time mentor Rafael Correa's leftist policies, has said he will neither tolerate disorder nor overturn the elimination of fuel subsidies that are part of a liberal economic reform package.
But he faces a stiff challenge from indigenous groups and others who blocked some roads for a fifth day running from Monday morning with stones, tires and branches.
Indigenous-led protests brought down three presidents in the years before Correa's rule.
The government says two dozen policemen have been injured in clashes with protesters, while a man died when he was hit by a car and an ambulance could not reach him through the barricades.
As well as the detainees for unrest, authorities have also rounded up about 20 shopkeepers for raising food prices illegally in a knock-on effect of higher fuel costs.
A state of emergency is in place.
Though he enjoys the support of businessmen and the military, the wheelchair-bound Moreno's popularity has sunk to under 30%, compared with 70% after his 2017 election.
In a national address on Sunday night, he reiterated calls for dialogue with protesters, who are planning a national strike for Wednesday.
Struggling with a large foreign debt and fiscal deficit, Quito this year reached a $4.2 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund that hinges on belt-tightening reforms.
As well as ending fuel subsidies, the government is reducing the state work force and planning some privatizations. Moreno says the fuel subsidies, in place for four decades, had distorted the economy and cost $60 billion.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia and Cristina Munoz in Quito, Alberto Fajardo in Cayambe, Yury Garcia in Guayaquil, Carlos Garcia Rawlins in Lasso; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Mark Heinrich)