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Ecuadoreans Protest Dollar Economy

April 27, 2000

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ Hundreds of demonstrators lobbed rocks at police and hijacked public buses Wednesday during protests against rising costs to consumers associated with the nation’s plan to switch to an all-U.S. dollar economy.

At least 30 students were arrested in the capital, Quito, after some 200 protesters threw rocks at riot police, who dispersed the crowd with tear gas. In another part of the city, more than 300 protesters armed with rocks forced passengers off 13 public buses and made the drivers abandon their usual routes and pull onto the campus of the Central University.

There were no serious injuries reported.

The scattered protests in Quito and other major cities were organized by the leftist-led Patriotic Front _ a coalition of unions, student groups and grassroots organizations.

President Gustavo Noboa last month approved a far reaching reform package, paving the way to eliminate the national currency, the sucre, and replace it with the U.S. dollar.

International lenders have backed the plan, and last month announced a three-year $2 billion aid package to help finance the rebuilding of Ecuador’s shattered economy.

But a condition for the aid includes a phasing out of government subsidies, which has already caused a doubling of fares for public transportation and is expected to significantly increase the cost of home cooking fuel, gasoline and other consumer items.

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