The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Ecuador Congress vows to block new president

By Alonso Soto


11:42 a.m. January 5, 2007

QUITOEcuador's Congress opened Friday with a majority pitted against the leftist reforms of President-elect Rafael Correa, promising a political showdown in the first days of his presidency.

Hundreds of protesters outside the building called for lawmakers not to obstruct Correa, raising the specter of more instability in a country where popular and congressional turmoil have toppled three presidents in less than a decade.

A friend of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who won November's presidential run-off, Correa spooked Wall Street with his plans to pull back on debt payments, renegotiate oil deals and not extend the lease on a major U.S. military base. Correa's fledgling political movement fielded no candidates for Congress and a majority in the 100-seat assembly wants to thwart his policies after he takes office on Jan. 15.

About 70 of them were expected to follow the lead of banana magnate Alvaro Noboa, one of Ecuador's richest men, who lost to Correa in the election.

They planned to challenge Correa's call for a referendum on setting up a constitutional assembly aimed at reducing political influence in the courts and forcing lawmakers to live in the small constituencies they represent. “Constitutionally an assembly is not possible,” said Jorge Cevallos, a lawmaker from Noboa's party elected president of Congress on Friday.

Congressman Federico Perez also took a tough line: “Because we don't know what Correa wants with the assembly we are not just going to give him a blank check to carry out those reforms.”

“We are a majority that will defend the constitution,” he added.

The opposition parties were expected to head key committees and replace the electoral tribunal judges with more sympathizers to block Correa's request for a referendum.

But hundreds of protesters loyal to Correa, a U.S.-trained economist, gathered outside the dilapidated and graffiti-covered Congress building, carrying placards such as ”Lawmakers, you rats.”

“This Congress is a toilet and they cannot oppose these reforms that are key to our people,” said Hector Miranda, who drove eight hours from the port city of Guayaquil.

Quito pollster Paulina Recalde expected more turmoil.

“Starting today, Congress will become the focus of protests and this could generate a lot of tension,” she said. “Congress' popularity is at a very low point and citizens are not giving lawmakers the benefit of the doubt.”

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