QUITO -- Peasants protesting in southern Ecuador against the approval of a new mining law drafted by the government on Wednesday freed police Capt. Eduardo Castillo, a doctor who had been taken hostage at the beginning of the week, Ecuadorian media reported.
Castillo was taken hostage on Monday when demonstrators burned the ambulance he was riding in.
After spending 35 hours in captivity, Castillo is now in a clinic in Cuenca, in the southern mountainous part of the country, where he is recovering from bruises and cuts in several places.
"They kept me in a type of hole. I spent all morning there. They tied me up and beat me," Castillo told reporters.
On the third day of the protests, small miners, peasants and environmental groups continued to block roads and engage in confrontations with police in the country's southern provinces.
The demonstrators are asking that the mining law - which this week is being debated in the Legislative Committee - be shelved because they feel that it threatens the environment and favors the large-scale exploitation of mineral resources at the expense of small mining operations.
More than a dozen police have been injured and a like number of demonstrators have been arrested during the protests, which have been centered in the provinces of Azuay, Zamora Chinchipe and Loja, especially near the Andean city of Cuenca.