QUITO – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the “temporary” withdrawal of a pair of tax proposals that sparked large protests last week.
In an address to the nation late Monday, Correa said he pulled the bills in the interest of nurturing a peaceful atmosphere ahead of Pope Francis’ July 5-8 visit to the Andean nation.
The leftist head of state also called for a genuine national dialogue on the proposals to levy taxes on large inheritances and on capital gains from property sales.
The pause in the legislative process is meant to provide time for such a debate and for debunking the opposition’s “lies” about the bills, Correa said.
“We will not set the disastrous precedent of violence imposing the agenda,” he said, referring to the sometimes violent protests, against the inheritance and capital gains levy that erupted last week while he was in Europe to attend an international summit.
“There are sectors who want to achieve by force what they never achieved at the ballot box,” he said, apparently alluding to the protesters’ chant of “Out Correa, Out.”
He then repeated the challenge he had issued to the opposition earlier Monday during a rally with supporters: “You want to remove the president, do it democratically.”
The new constitution Correa promulgated several years ago includes a mechanism to remove the president by popular vote in a referendum.
Correa, 52, won re-election in 2013 with 58 percent of the vote against seven opponents.
He invited lawmakers, academics, students and members of civil society to take part in a “great national debate” on the merits of the tax proposals and “about what kind of society we want.”
“We want debate, not shouting, we want arguments, not manipulation, we want to listen and speak, not insults or outrages, even worse, violence,” Correa said.
“If anyone demonstrates that either of the laws hurt the poor or the middle class, I will definitively shelve the bills,” the president said.
Correa appealed to his supporters to “be more alert than ever against coup-mongering, destabilization, against the very people who always want to return to power through illegitimate means.”
He had earlier accused protest leaders of wanting “another Sept. 30,” referring to the date in 2010 when Correa was assaulted by mutinous police and forced to take refuge in a hospital for nine hours before army troops broke the siege in an operation that left 10 people dead.