Protests in Ecuador Leave One Demonstrator Dead

One day after a demonstrator was killed, Ecuador's government agreed on Thursday to allow lawmakers to mediate an end to protests over development funds in the Amazon that have damped oil output, officials said.

Demonstrators in the poor jungle provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana have seized oil wells and blocked highways to demand more development funds and better electricity services.

On Wednesday, a demonstrator was shot dead as a crowd set fire to an electric company building in Orellana, one of the two provinces where army control and a nighttime curfew have been imposed, according to regional commander Gen. Jorge Mino. He said he did not know who the shot the demonstrator.

On Thursday, the government and Amazon protest leaders allowed a team of four legislators from diverse political parties to mediate the conflict, which has halted the construction of a new $1.1 billion pipeline. "The two sides are willing to talk. We are going to be observers for these talks. So far, we've advanced on reaching agreements," stated Henry Llanes, a legislator for the center-left Democratic Left party.

The team, chosen by protesters and approved by the government, will receive proposals from both sides to find solutions to a lack of basic services in the provinces, Llanes said.

The army has imposed a curfew on the area since the government declared a state of emergency on Friday and suspended some basic civil rights, such as freedom to hold open meetings. Demonstrators want the builder of the new pipeline, OCP Ecuador SA, to grant more development funds for the area, but the company says it reached an accord with authorities on such money last year.

Protests more than 100 miles east of Quito in the oil-rich provinces have triggered losses of about 175,650 barrels of crude to date, valued at $2.6 million by state oil company Petroecuador. Crude oil is Ecuador's biggest export.