Ecuador protests left 67 police injured, 47 arrested

Quito (AFP) - A total of 67 police officers were injured and 47 people arrested during protests in Ecuador against President Rafael Correa's moves to seek a fourth term, an official said Friday.

Most of the injuries and arrests came in Quito, the epicenter of Thursday's protests, deputy minister for domestic security Diego Fuentes told a TV station.

In the capital city, demonstrators with sticks and rocks clashed with police manning a perimeter outside the presidential compound. The police responded by firing tear gas.

In office since 2007, Correa has drawn increasing criticism over a constitutional reform package that would allow him to stand for re-election when his current term ends in 2017.

Discontent has been amplified by an economic slowdown gripping the South American oil producer, hit hard by sliding crude prices.

Indigenous protesters, who have been particularly vocal critics of Correa, blocked roads in six of Ecuador's 24 provinces Thursday, including the Pan-American Highway to Peru.

But in a setback for protesters, transport, education and health services were all operating normally in the country's largest cities despite a call for a general strike.

A heavy police presence was on the streets in key cities, including 5,000 officers in Quito.

The 52-year-old Correa has been Ecuador's most popular president in decades, building hospitals, schools and roads and expanding social spending.

But he has run into stiff opposition over a series of constitutional amendments currently before Congress, where he enjoys a large majority, including the one that would let him seek a fourth term in 2017.