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Ecuador President Gutierrez Ousted by Congress

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=8243708 Ecuador President Gutierrez Ousted by Congress Wed Apr 20, 2005 05:29 PM ET By Carlos
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 20, 2005
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      Ecuador President Gutierrez Ousted by Congress
      Wed Apr 20, 2005 05:29 PM ET

      By Carlos Andrade and Alexandra Valencia

      QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Lucio
      Gutierrez was ousted by Congress on Wednesday after
      thousands of demonstrators demanded the former army
      colonel quit for meddling with the nation's top court.

      A military helicopter flew Gutierrez out of the
      presidential palace in colonial downtown Quito to an
      unknown destination after 60 congressmen from the
      100-seat chamber voted to oust him for "abandoning his

      The state prosecutor's office said it ordered his
      arrest for two deaths on Tuesday and Wednesday during
      huge demonstrations demanding his resignation for
      filling the Supreme Court with political allies in

      Congress named Vice President Alfredo Palacio to serve
      out the remainder of a four-year term that expires in
      January 2007. Palacio, a 63-year-old cardiologist, had
      been a prominent critic of his former boss.

      Opposition congressmen, who accused Gutierrez of being
      a dictator for trying to take over the courts, said he
      had effectively abandoned his post by failing to
      properly carry out presidential duties.

      The armed forces, traditional arbiters of power,
      abandoned Gutierrez, who had refused to quit.

      "We have been forced to withdraw support from the
      president in order to ensure public safety," said the
      head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Victor Hugo

      Demonstrators celebrated and shook hands with security
      force members after news spread Gutierrez had become
      the third president of the Andean nation toppled amid
      popular unrest since 1997.

      In 2000, Gutierrez himself helped topple President
      Jamil Mahuad. He was briefly jailed for leading a coup
      and was elected in late 2002 with support from the

      A man of dark, native Indian features, Gutierrez
      promised voters a change from centuries of domination
      by a white elite. But he alienated many supporters
      with austere economic policies that brought growth but
      little relief to poverty.

      Street protests erupted in Quito a week ago to protest
      a Supreme Court decision to drop corruption charges
      against former President Abdala Bucaram, a key
      political ally of Gutierrez.

      Bucaram, known as the "the Madman," was himself ousted
      from the presidency by Congress in 1997 for "mental

      Thousands of Gutierrez supporters armed with machetes
      and guns had driven on buses into the capital, Quito,
      on Wednesday, but were met by crowds of
      anti-government protesters who tried to block their
      path downtown.

      Plumes of smoke rose over parts of the Andean mountain
      capital as the rival groups of protesters ran riot.

      Anti-government demonstrators broke into the Congress
      building, smashing windows and chairs in the chamber.

      Two people were killed in protests on Tuesday night
      and Wednesday, according to the Red Cross and hospital

      Congress fired the newly appointed Supreme Court on
      Sunday, just two days after Gutierrez dismissed it
      himself in an attempt to defuse the crisis. Gutierrez
      also declared a state of emergency in Quito on Friday
      night but rescinded it after less than 24 hours to
      make talks with the opposition easier.

      Gutierrez and the opposition both said they wanted to
      set up a system to name independent judges, but could
      not agree how.

      Ecuadorean government bonds fell sharply after the
      latest bout of chaos in a country that is now booming
      thanks to oil exports but defaulted on foreign debt in

      "There is an awful lot of instability, it's going to
      take quite some time to sort through all this to have
      any measure of governability to build again," said
      Enrique Alvarez, Latin America debt strategist at
      IDEAglobal in New York.
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