Friday, October 1st 2010 - 05:38 UTC

Ecuador president, hostage of mutinous police freed by elite Army forces

Ecuador’s elite forces freed President Rafael Correa late Thursday in a raid on a hospital where police held him captive as part of wage dispute that regional leaders labeled an organized coup attempt.

Exchange of fire broke out when the Army moved into the hospital Zoom Image

Correa told supporters that those responsible for the uprising would be punished 'without pardon' Zoom Image

“I’m not going to negotiate absolutely anything,” Correa said from the presidential palace after being freed amid gunfire, according to remarks broadcast on the Telesur network. “I told them I was leaving here as president or a cadaver.”

Two policemen have died in the clashes, according to the official broadcast. Correa said police had “stabbed me in the back” and called their behavior an act of treason.

The military raid came after Ecuador declared a state of emergency when hundreds of police protesting wage cuts blocked roads, shut the airport for several hours and sprayed teargas on Correa.

Several regional leaders backed Correa’s claim that he was the target of an organized coup, and with the exception of the Brazilian and Colombian presidents, they all headed to Buenos Aires for a meeting to show support.

President Correa was taken to a hospital after scuffling with the police and was trapped there as officers surrounded the facility, refusing to let his personal security forces escort him out of the building. Looters ransacked banks, supermarkets and shopping malls in the port city of Guayaquil the country’s largest. The Red Cross said 51 people were injured in the violence.

Police and soldiers began rebelling after congress last night passed measures that would delay automatic promotions and slow salary increases. Correa defended his policies, which he says are part of a drive to eliminate government waste.

Correa’s claims his presidency is at risk may be an attempt to drum up support among his allies, said Andres Ochoa, a researcher at the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Correa had a 67% approval rating in Quito and 59% approval in Guayaquil, according to Habitus poll of 800 adults published Sept. 15. The survey had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The opposition in recent weeks has stepped up its attacks as economic growth trails its neighbors and Correa’s threats to expropriate assets in the oil industry, the country´s biggest, deter private investment. Correa also angered opponents by pushing through an oil law by decree and ignoring lawmakers’ objections to his plan to broaden the state’s control over universities and local budgets.

Gen. Luis Ernesto Gonzalez, commander of the armed forces, reaffirmed troops’ loyalty to Correa even while calling on the president to reconsider the pay and benefit cuts for the protesting cops.

“We emphatically request that the law be revised or left without effect so that the rights of public service workers, military and police aren’t affected and so that the Ecuadorean state can return to normality,” Gonzalez said in comments broadcast on state television.

About 300 members of the armed forces stormed Quito´s airport, blocking the airstrip and closing the facility for nine hours.

PetroEcuador, the South American country’s state-owned oil company and biggest source of export revenue, said operations were normal as the military guarded refineries and oil fields.

21 comments Feed

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1 Fred (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 10:48 am Report abuse
If it was an attempt of coup d' etát, I'm glad it didn't work. Unasul is working right now to insure democracy in Ecuador. Best wishes for Ecuadoreans.
2 JoseAngeldeMonterrey (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 11:42 am Report abuse
If the Unasur are so worried about democracy in the region they should start by demanding Chavez to step down and clear the way for freedom and political diversity and allow venezuelan democracy to take the natural course with different presidents and political parties.
3 Forgetit87 (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 12:02 pm Report abuse

That was ridiculous. To force an elected leader to step down from power even if the population itself has elected him and his party - in usual elections and referenda - into the presidency and the Congress like the last elections has shown? What for? Not only is Chavez in power due to the will of the Venezuela people, but forcing him to step down would be to put a foreign entity will above that of the people. Forcing Chavez to do that would be antidemocratic.
4 fredbdc (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 12:05 pm Report abuse
This is why the current leftist gov'ts in South American have decimated their armed forces. They are always scared of a coup. It's not over yet maybe the people of Ecuador will get a good and honest “ruler” out of this. Too bad the coup in Venezuela didn't work a few years ago. They should have solved the “problem” when they had the chance..
5 Think (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 12:16 pm Report abuse
Your Comment
6 Forgetit87 (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 12:37 pm Report abuse
Curiously fred, the Chavez gov - the arch-leftist gov in LatAm - is the one that most invests in the military, specially in military hardware acquisition. As for your desire that the Venezuela coup had not gone under, that doens't surprise. Americans are hardwired to the hypocritical. Defend democracy when bashing regimes you dislike. Support coups when they target govts you dislike.

As for Ecuador, know that Correa has had more than 60% of support in key political reforms he has promoted in the country. That probably reflects his general approval ratings. The Ecuador people itself seem to consider Correa a good leader. So you're no one to say they are incorrect, for you obviously have no knowledge about that country's political scene. Your opinion on Correa is based solely on the American hypocrisy I've pointed out above: the tendency to bash disliked govts in a blind way.
7 fredbdc (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 01:27 pm Report abuse
We don't dislike nor are we blind, we hate Socialists, Communists, Dictators. When the general population is under-educated they are easily manipulated by a charismatic leader like Correa and Chavez. That is why the adults have in and and fix it for them before it gets out of hand.
8 Alvinho/BRA (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 01:58 pm Report abuse
UNASUR = lie

I'm glad that I'm not the only on who dislikes reds.

If Dikilma wins elections here in Brazil shortly, don' doubt that same situation that's happened in Ecuador will do so here within a few years.
9 Forgetit87 (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 02:18 pm Report abuse
Yours is a very different position. You support coups but hates dictators.

Americans have frequently supported incompetent leaders in LatAm, democratic or otherwise - leaders who have managed their countries' social and economic affairs in incompetent fasion. The use of brutal repression methods to impose social cohesion, mismanagement of the economy - we have seen either or both of these in Argentina during the right-wing military junta and the pro-American Carlos Menem administration.

I wouldn't count on that. Ecuador, together with Bolivia, has always been one of the most unstable countries in the continent. And this has little to do with “reds.” In Bolivia, for instance, the number of coups, coup attempts and contra-coups is superior to its number of years as an independent country! But only recently it has had a leftist as a president.
10 Think (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 02:20 pm Report abuse
(8) Albino
“If Dilma wins elections here in Brazil shortly, don' doubt that same situation that's happened in Ecuador will do so here within a few years”

Same situation???

Do you mean that the coup would be defeated after 8 hours, a whole bunch of facists would be in jail awaiting a well deserved sentence and Dilma would be viewed as ”the Mother of all Brazilians?

Go for it mate ..... Go for it :-)))
11 Alvinho/BRA (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 02:28 pm Report abuse
she's not my mother...mother, I have only foreigners don't know anything about Brazil except for the cliches just like hookers, caipirinha, slums, capoeira, Rio de Janero and samba.
12 fredbdc (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 02:40 pm Report abuse
We support Dictators that support us, isn't that what we re supposed to do?

Didn't Argentina have a similar problem recently with the President stuck in The “pink palace” by an angry mob and had to leave by helicopter then resign? How many Presidents did you have in a week, was it 5 or 8?
Except for Chile, South America is an embarrassment, no better than Africa. I really don't understand why it can't get its act together.
13 Think (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 02:52 pm Report abuse
14 Alvinho/BRA (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 03:07 pm Report abuse
Fred...what it happened in Argentina was hilarious at that fact I envy those ecuadorians who hit the street to kick Correa's in Brazil with Bolsa Famila and a still mob who only cares about carnival, Big Brother Brasil, soap operas and endless Sunday afternoons at botecos boozing and watching Flamengo and Corinthians' matches on TV.
15 Forgetit87 (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 03:20 pm Report abuse
Now I understand why last week a Japanese politician called Americans “mono-cellular”!

Fred, if you support dictators when they are friendly to you, that means you don't hate dictators. It means you hate leaders not allied to the US, whether democratic or not - period. Can you understand that?

If you want to understand why certain countries can't pull their act together, look into the mirror. In large part this has to do with foreign attempts to destabilize the country. The US pours millions of dollars into Venezuelan journalists' pockets for them to make opposition to the Chavez govt. And of course, the international media abroad do a good job in denigrating leaders when they fail to show a pro-West stance in foreign affairs or to promote the free market reforms that are so dear to US multinationals. And US ambassadors to those countries play no small role in covertly agitating the opposition in there. In Bolivia, for instance, those responsible for the 2008 massacre in the eastern part of the country were reported to have had reunions to US ambassador Philip Goldberg - something that moved Morales to expel him from the country for conspiring against the democratic order.

And if you want to understand political instability in Argentina, instead of moronically comparing it with Africa, take a look at the economic instability of the country during the 90s and early 2000s - an instability that resulted directly from the free-market reforms advised to that country by the IMF and like-minded institutions headed by crappy economists indicated by govts from the developed world.

If you want South America to act in a coherent way, then leave it alone. You Americans with your monocellular brains can't barely choose decent leaders to yourselves. Don't intend to do that to other peoples!
16 fredbdc (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 03:31 pm Report abuse
How can you blame the IMF when you only took the money without the recommended austerity plan? It was huge mistake for the IMF to continue to give Argentina $ when they didn't do what was agreed to in the loan terms.
There are plenty of IMF success stories take a look to the east and you will see the biggest one in South America. Brazil did what the IMF recommended and is now on a path to prosperity and Argentina is heading to the crapper once again.
If South America countries didn't lean towards communism we would not have been involved. Bolivia is a joke and is begging us to get back the reduced importation taxes yet doesn't do what we want with Coca, adapting a free market or respecting private property rights. Can't have it both way if you want our money do what we say or go away. Evo is like a whiny teenager that wants the parents money but doesn't want to listen to them.
17 Forgetit87 (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 04:22 pm Report abuse
Brazil last took a loan from the IMF in 1998. These are the growth numbers, according to the IMF itself, for the years following the loan:
98: 0.04%
99: 0.253%
00: 4.306%
01: 1.315%

Does that seem like prosperity? Brazil has only begun to grow at decent numbers (above 5%) in the latter half of the 2000s. So you're saying the loan started to kick in 10 years after the country took it? That's unusual! Growth in there has nothing to do with austerity, fred. Austerity helped to put the balance of payments under control - but that doesn't equal growth.

As for Argentina, you're incorrect in saying that Menem didn't take the austerity policies the IMF recommended. He privatized state companies to reduce the budget deficit and increased interest rates: both are typical orthodox policies the IMF pushes to countries in crises. It was precisely austerity that put the country in turmoil, for it then became unable to sustain health, education and infrastructure policies - and thus employment - by imposing the budget cuts the IMF recommended. And fred, the IMF only lends money to a govt and it agrees to impose austerity plans before the loan.

As for SA “leaning towards communism”, I make two observations. 1) Poor people lean more toward left-wing ideologies in the whole world. That's not a SA phenomenom. 2) People go back and forth in their economic policy preferences depending on their current situation. When the economy is in crisis, people shift their preferences to macroeconomic policies that in various degrees oppose the current one. That's not a South American phenomenom. Venezuela didn't elect Chávez because its people lean towards communism. It did so because the free-market reforms by the Carlos Andres Perez govt failed. And Argentina elected the Kirchners because the free-market reforms by the Menem govt failed. And Brazil elected Lula because the free-market reforms by the FHC govt failed, etc.

Even Americans no longer have blind faith in globalization.
18 jorge! (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 10:23 pm Report abuse
Long life to Lula and Dilma!!! f**k Serra!
19 fredbdc (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 10:29 pm Report abuse
Poor and Stupid is what drives communism/socialism, poor people trying to steal from the rich. It's pretty well proven that it doesn't work. It's not like anyone would want to live in Venezuela or Cuba would they?

And on the IMP, yes it is at least a 10 year program. Do you think 10 years is a long time in the life of a country? Do you think growth rates of 9% are sustainable or advisable like Argentina's current situation? What about Brazil's Inflation rate at that time? What is Argentina's inflation? You use a lot of big pretty words but you sure don't know very much.
Take a read:
20 jerry (#) Oct 01st, 2010 - 10:45 pm Report abuse
#3 - I remember a leader in Europe who was elected by the people many years ago; I think that his name was Adolph “something-or-the other”.
21 JoseAngeldeMonterrey (#) Oct 02nd, 2010 - 03:18 am Report abuse
Let us not fool ourselves. Chavez has abused the petrodollars to prop up his personal image, only his own image, Venezuela has received billions of dollars in these years of sky rocketing oil prices, he has spent billions of dollars that belonged to Venezuela in populist programs to advance his political positions. With public funds he has developed a clientèle network. He has nationalized many companies, rendering hundreds of thousands of employees as public workers who now depend on his generosity to continue getting their paycheck. It is pure populism and an irresponsible management of the economy.

Everything that goes up comes down one day, oil is no exception, Venezuela's huge dependency on oil will eventually translate into misery and social disorders. We have seen it before. I am sorry to say this but Argentina and Brazil, instead of helping Venezuela and demanding more democracy and fair elections, they have signed happy deals with the dictator wannabe. Chavez, Evo, Correa, are already bringing chaos to the region and will eventually bring more problems. Nothing good will come out of these crazy populists.

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