News / Americas

Ecuador in State of Siege

Soldiers fall in in front of the Carondolet presidential palace in Quito, 01 Oct 2010
Soldiers fall in in front of the Carondolet presidential palace in Quito, 01 Oct 2010

Ecuador remains under a state of emergency after soldiers rescued President Rafael Correa Thursday from a police rebellion that erupted into street clashes and left eight people dead.

The president called the revolt an attempt to overthrow his administration.  Mr. Correa also accused supporters of former president Lucio Gutierrez of inciting the violence, which Mr. Gutierrez has denied.

During the violence, police angry about proposed benefit cuts seized control of Ecuador's main airport and shut down highways.  Mr. Correa was trapped in a hospital for several hours when he sought shelter after a tear gas canister exploded near his face.  

Soldier managed to rush him out of the hospital and return him to the presidential palace, where Mr. Correa told cheering supporters he was grateful for those who stood up against the rebelling police officers.

Ecuador's police chief, Freddy Martinez, resigned Friday for failing to stop the revolt.  The country's military has been placed in charge of public order.

At an emergency meeting Friday in Argentina, a group of South American leaders vowed regional support for Mr. Correa, condemning what they called "an attempted coup."

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called President Correa Friday, also pledging support for a peaceful restoration of order.

The chaos began Thursday during a meeting between President Correa and a group of police demonstrating about the new law that would eliminate bonuses and promotions.

Mr. Correa, who has been in office since 2007, was re-elected to a second term last year.  He is an ally of Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, and has been critical of U.S. policy in Latin America.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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