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Ecuador Swears-in New President - 2003-01-16

Ecuador swore in a new president on Wednesday, an army colonel who three years ago helped stage a coup that unseated then unpopular president Jamil Mahuad.

In an hour-long speech outlining his plan to rebuild Ecuador, Colonel Lucio Gutierrez pledged to clean out corruption, build the economy and fight poverty. The president said his government plans to move quickly to increase a government subsidy for the poorest, with more improvements for the poor later in his term.

In addition he proposed a national nutrition security fund, supplied in part by the country's food processers. "In my government," the president said, "we will have all food processers channel to the food security fund their non-saleable wares to apply toward a national nutrition plan." He then quoted from a common saying, "When the poor cannot eat, the rich must not sleep."

Seven Latin American presidents were among the guests at the inauguration, including leftist leaders Fidel Castro of Cuba and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

President Gutierrez is a political outsider, elected in November over a banana exporter whose campaign was better financed. The new leader's name first became known to Ecuadorians during a January 2000 coup when he and other renegade military officers helped protesting Indians to throw out Mr. Mahuad in a short-lived coup.

Mr. Gutierrerz was jailed, then resigned to enter politics. With rising crime in Ecuador, the President said he wants excellent security that protects children, senior citizens and the disabled.

His speech was interrrupted numerous times by applause.

The new president promised to recover the country's pride and national unity. But his efforts may run into trouble in the country's Congress, where his coalition holds only 17 of 100 seats.