QUITO, Ecuador — As a military helicopter circled overhead, a volunteer clown in a red rubber nose sang a nonsense song to laughing children outside a public theater.

Volunteers inside handed juice and sandwiches to members of the Shuar people newly arrived from the Amazon rainforest. Some had black face paint and hand-carved wooden spears that poked above the indigenous demonstrators who’ve taken over the sprawling state-run complex known as the Casa de la Cultura.

A few blocks away, groups of young, stone-throwing…



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