Ecuadorians Return to Streets, Despite Military Curfew, After Violent Protests

(QUITO, Ecuador) — Residents of Ecuador’s capital ventured out into the streets Sunday despite a 24-hour military curfew, picking their way through piles of burnt tires, chunks of pavement and tree trunks smoldering after a day of violent protests across Quito.

The government and indigenous protesters planned to begin negotiations aimed at defusing more than a week of demonstrations against a plan to remove fuel subsidies as part of an International Monetary Fund austerity package. The protests have paralyzed Ecuador’s economy and cut off more than half of the country’s production of oil, Ecuador’s most important export.

The United Nations and Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference said negotiations would begin at 3 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EDT) between President Lenín Moreno’s government and the Confederation of Indigenous Nations, which has brought thousands of indigenous protesters to the capital and organized protests across the country, from the Andes high sierra to the Amazon rainforest.

“We trust in the will of everyone to establish a dialogue in good faith and find a quick solution to the complex situation the country is living,” the U.N.’s Ecuador office said in a statement.

However, the protests have drawn in thousands of Ecuadorians from outside the indigenous minority and many said they would continue demonstrating despite the negotiations. On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people defied the curfew and headed toward the main protest site, some carrying wooden poles. Police let them enter the park and surrounding area but searched people’s bags for potential weapons.

Michael Limaico, a 35-year-old unemployed sign-maker, stood on a corner in the Carcelen neighborhood near a line of burned tires that blocked one of the city main thoroughfares on Saturday. Limaico said that he and his wife had struggled for years to feed and house their three children, ages 9 to 15, with their earnings of about $600 a month from odd jobs around northern Quito.

Then, prices of food and other basic goods rose sharply after Moreno removed fuel subsidies on Oct. 2. Limaico said it had become impossible to make ends meet, and he had been protesting for days with neighbors who have blocked Diego de Vazquez Avenue as it passes through Carcelen.

“This isn’t a protest of thieves, of gangsters,” he said. “This is the people, and we’re fed up.”

Demonstrations in Quito took three distinct forms on Saturday, the most tumultuous in 10 days of protests against Moreno’s austerity measures. Thousands of indigenous people protested outside the …read more

Source:: Time – World


Trump Orders All U.S. Troops to Leave Northern Syria, Defense Secretary Says

APTOPIX Turkey US Syria

(WASHINGTON) — Amid growing chaos in Syria, President Donald Trump has ordered all U.S. troops to withdraw from the country’s north to avoid a bloody conflict between Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters that “gets worse by the hour,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.

Esper, who spoke in two TV interviews, did not say the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria are leaving the country entirely. Trump’s national security team planned to meet later Sunday to assess the situation, Esper said, as U.S. officials continue to urge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt his incursion.

Asked whether he thought Turkey, a NATO ally, would deliberately attack American troops in Syria, Esper said, “I don’t know whether they would or wouldn’t.”

He cited an incident on Friday in which a small number of U.S. troops fell under artillery fire at an observation post in the north. Esper called that an example of “indiscriminate fire” coming close to Americans, adding it was unclear whether that was an accident.

Esper said he spoke to Trump on Saturday night amid growing signs that the Turkish invasion, which began Wednesday, was growing more dangerous.

Lefteris Pitarakis—APIn this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from fires on targets in Tel Abyad, Syria, caused by bombardment by Turkish forces, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. The United Nations says at least 130,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in northeastern Syria with many more likely on the move as a Turkish offensive in the area enters its fifth day.

“In the last 24 hours, we learned that they (the Turks) likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned — and to the west,” Esper said.

The U.S. also has come to believe that the Kurds are attempting to “cut a deal” with the Syrian army and Russia to counter the invading Turks, he said. As a result, Trump “directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria,” Esper said.

Trump, in a tweet Sunday, said: “Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change. Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight. They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?”

Esper said he would not discuss a …read more

Source:: Time – World


Hong Kong Protesters Shift Tactics as Demonstrations Stretch Into Fifth Month

(HONG KONG) — Tearing a page out of ancient Chinese military philosophy, black-clad protesters in Hong Kong changed tactics and wreaked havoc by popping up in small groups in multiple locations across the city Sunday, pursued by but also often eluding police who made scores of muscular arrests.

Violence spiraled as protests stretched from Sunday afternoon into the night, with police struggling to restore order.

A savage beating after dark by a group of masked protesters left a man bleeding profusely. Police said an officer was attacked from behind with a sharp weapon earlier in the day and was left with a bleeding neck wound.

Video broadcast on Hong Kong television also showed a masked, black-clad protester dropping a riot officer with a flying high kick, followed by two other protesters who beat the officer on the ground and tried unsuccessfully to snatch his gun.

The guerrilla-like tactics sought to maximize the disruption and visibility of protests at a time when anti-government demonstrations have, as a whole, been showing signs of flagging as they stretch into a fifth month. Pressure from a government ban on the face masks worn by many protesters and extreme violence earlier this month appear to have cooled the ardor of some demonstrators and whittled down protest numbers.

Online calls for gatherings to start at 2 p.m. in dozens of malls, parks, sports grounds and other locations triggered an afternoon of mayhem and marked a shift from earlier more concentrated rallies in fewer spots.

“We’re going to be more fluid and flexible,” said Amanda Sin, 23, an office worker who joined a peaceful protest outside police headquarters in central Hong Kong. “We are interchanging different tactics.”

Roaming clumps of hardcore protesters — too numerous, elusive and fast-moving to be policed — popped up out of nowhere, vandalizing stores, blocking traffic with makeshift barricades and spraying protest graffiti, often holding up umbrellas to shield their activities from view.

Masked protesters wielding hammers wrecked a Huawei store that was apparently targeted because of the brand’s links to mainland China. On another store broken into and trashed, protesters sprayed, “We are not stealing.” The words “black heart” were sprayed in black inside a vandalized Starbucks, another frequent target of the anti-government and anti-China protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese territory since June.

Changing strategies to adapt to shifting circumstances is a notion deeply engrained in Chinese thinking, notably detailed in the ancient military treatise “The Art of …read more

Source:: Time – World