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  HOME | Main headline

ECUADOR CRISIS: Troops Guard Legislature
Amid suspicions that some members of the police unit assigned to the National Assembly collaborated with the uprising, soldiers were deployed to guard Ecuador's legislature and tanks patrolled the streets of the capital

By Cesar Muñoz Acebes

QUITO – The Ecuadorian government announced Tuesday an extension of the state of emergency declared last week during a violent police mutiny that threatened to topple President Rafael Correa.

Amid suspicions that some members of the police unit assigned to the National Assembly collaborated with the uprising, soldiers were deployed to guard the legislature and tanks patrolled the streets of the capital.

None of the members of the assembly’s regular security detachment reported for duty on Tuesday.

The government had originally planned to allow the state of emergency to lapse at midnight Tuesday, but Correa said he decided to extend it for three more days “so the National Assembly can fully exercise its constitutional and legal attributes.”

The president’s statement came after the assembly’s deputy speaker, Irina Cabezas, suspended Tuesday’s session citing a lack of security guarantees.

The situation in Ecuador remains fragile, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño acknowledged in a session with foreign reporters.

“Those who shot at the president’s car, those who broke my head, those who shot at the people on the streets and at the interior minister are free, so the crisis is not surmounted,” he said.

The ostensible cause of last week’s rebellion was the National Assembly’s failure to override Correa’s veto of a measure exempting police and the military from an overhaul of public-employee pay.

While the plan, which became law Monday, eliminates various annual bonuses automatically paid to police, soldiers and other civil servants once they achieve specified levels of seniority, the government points out that cops have seen their base pay doubled since Correa took office in 2007.

Last Thursday, hours after the vote in the assembly, police and some military units began what appeared to be coordinated actions such as shutting down the airports in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city.

Correa went to the main police barracks in the capital to address the disgruntled cops.

As he was trying to leave afterward, police attacked the president and his bodyguards with tear gas. Correa started choking from the gas and his escort rushed him into the police hospital next door.

The cops from the main barracks then surrounded the hospital, while rebellious police also occupied the National Assembly and staged disturbances in other Ecuadorian cities.

Loyal police officers and army troops managed to rescue Correa late Thursday night, but one soldier and a civilian supporter of the president were killed by gunfire from the police rebels.

Nationwide, eight people died and 274 others were wounded in incidents related to the mutiny.

An audiotape of police radio communications from the day of the mutiny reveals that some of the mutinous cops were urging their comrades surrounding the hospital to kill Correa.

“Quick, kill that son of a bitch Correa” and “Kill Correa to end this” are among the comments heard on a tape released Tuesday by the official Andes news agency.

Authorities are examining audio, videotapes and photographs to identify both the cops who took part in the uprising and the politicos the Correa administration insists were behind it.

“The intellectual authors ... work near here, in a place called the Legislative Palace,” Patiño said Tuesday.

Correa has publicly blamed the Sociedad Patriotica party, founded by former President Lucio Gutierrez, for the rebellion, though the erstwhile head of state – living in exile in Brazil – denies any involvement. EFE

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