Ecuador's police said on Tuesday it detained the leader of the country's largest indigenous organization, Leonidas Iza, after he led blockades on several highways and other allegedly violent acts in protest against the government's economic policies.

Iza's lawyer called the detention illegal and said it was unclear what crime he is accused of.

Indigenous groups began on Monday what they said will be an ongoing protest to demand President Guillermo Lasso freeze the price of gasoline, declare a moratorium on small farmers' bank debts and limit oil and mining expansion in the country.

On Monday night protesters burned a patrol car and attacked police officers, extinguished a pressure pump in an oil field and damaged infrastructure in some flower farms, the government said.

"He was intercepted and detained in a violent way, incommunicado for five hours, we didn't know where he was and we still don't know what crime he is accused of," Iza's lawyer Lenin Sarzosa told journalists in Quito. "We have presented a habeas petition for illegal detention."

Iza's organization CONAIE tweeted a video of his detention, describing it as "violent, illegal and arbitrary."

Four people who allegedly participated in crimes and one person who is an intellectual author are awaiting a hearing, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo wrote on Twitter.

"Protest is a right that we defend as the government, but not chaos and much less violence," the minister added.

Indigenous people blocked roads around Quito with mud, trees and burning tires on Monday and closures were also reported in the Amazon, where much oil and mining infrastructure is located.

Several roads remained closed on Tuesday, as other indigenous leaders called for more protest until Iza is freed.

"Whatever happens, whatever it costs, even if we have to rot in jail, we will keep fighting," said Marlon Vargas, the head of Amazonian indigenous group CONFENIAE.

Lasso has said he will not allow protests to affect economic recovery and will punish any vandalism during protests.

Ecuadorean oil company PetroOriental said it was losing production of some 1,400 barrels per day and had shuttered eight wells in Orellana province after a small group from the Yawepare community occupied its installations, blocked access roads and damaged the tires of military vehicles with spears.