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Escalating police protest shuts airport in Ecuador

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-30

Some 150 Ecuadoran troops took control of the airport in Quito, suspending all flights, as dozens of police took to the streets on Thursday to protest a new law approved by Congress that would cut benefits to the police and military.

AFP - Ecuadoran troops took over the international airport in Quito Thursday to protest a law cutting benefits to the police and military, an airport official said, adding that all flights were suspended.
   
About 150 troops took over the airport in the capital of the South American nation, as dozens of police protested on the streets against a new law approved by Congress which would strip them of some economic benefits.
   
President Rafael Correa warned earlier Thursday that he would not bow in face of the protests, as the army chief threw his weight behind the Ecuadoran leader and vowed to restore order.
   
"No, I will not step back, if they want to seize the barracks, if they want to leave the citizens defenseless and betray their mission," Correa said in a speech to soldiers from Quito's main regiment.
   
Protests also flared in Ecuador's second city of Guayaquil and the city of Cuenca. But the largest demonstrations erupted in Quito where tear gas was used to try to disperse the crowds.
   
"The troops united will never be defeated," the demonstrators chanted, with some calling on the troops to join in the demonstrations.
   
But army chief Ernesto Gonzalez on Thursday threw his full support behind Correa, who was said to be considering dissolving Congress and holding snap elections to resolve the political crisis.
   
"We live in a state which is governed by laws, and we are subordinate to the highest authority which is the president of the republic," Gonzalez told a press conference.
   
"We will take whatever appropriate action the government decides on," he added.
   
Police chief Freddy Martinez also rushed to the scene of the demonstrations to call for calm, but was met with a hostile reception.
   
The leftist Correa was re-elected last year to a second term as president of the country of some 14.5 million people, which is bordered by Colombia and Peru.
   
International election observers at the time criticized Correa's "dominant" media presence in the run up to the vote, which they said had damaged the poll's fairness.
   
Since first coming to power in 2006, Correa has proven controversial because of his close ties to regional leftists like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
   
The US-educated economist took a tough stance with investors and refused to repay foreign debt, in moves welcomed by supporters who blamed the effects of the economic crisis on foreign liberalism.
   
Correa had nearly two years left of his current term, but a new constitution approved in 2008 let him bid to start over again.
   
Correa promised to pursue popular social programs funded by oil wealth in the OPEC nation where 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
   
His reelection was seen as giving some stability to the world's top banana exporter that has seen three of its previous presidents -- between 1996 and 2006 -- ousted before the end of their terms.

 

Date created : 2010-09-30

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