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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

20 Fired Ecuadorean Lawmakers Take Seats

Wednesday March 14, 2007


QUITO, Ecuador (AP via The Guardian) - Some 20 lawmakers fired last week by Ecuador's top electoral court for allegedly interfering with plans for a constitutional referendum forced their way past dozens of police guarding Congress and took up their seats on Tuesday.

``We are in a dictatorship!'' shouted one of the dismissed legislators, opposition Congresswoman Gloria Gallardo, who made her way into the chamber through riot police and tear gas.

At least two members of Congress and three other people were injured in the incident, which also prompted rival executive and legislative police forces to scuffle with each other.

The new leftist president, Rafael Correa, blamed the violence on the ousted lawmakers.

``We are peaceful people. We will keep public order,'' he told Radio Vision. ``These people want to create chaos because they know they're already out.''

The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are all grappling for power in this politically unstable Andean nation, accusing each other of violating the constitution and trying to assert their supremacy.

Correa, an admirer of Venezuela's firebrand leader Hugo Chavez, has vowed to revamp the country's political system since taking office in January. He is determined to hold an April 15 referendum on whether Ecuador should throw out its constitution and write a new charter limiting the power of the traditional political parties he blames for corruption and political instability.

Ecuador's eighth president in 10 years, Correa says he won't respect any decision by Congress or the courts to block the referendum. If approved, Ecuador would have five months to elect 130 members of a special assembly that would begin rewriting the constitution next fall.

Congress approved the referendum plan with the caveat that the assembly would not be able to close the legislature. Correa later overruled that stipulation, saying the assembly would have ultimate power and setting off the constitutional crisis.

The country's top electoral court, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which approved Correa's plan, fired 57 congressmen from the 100-seat unicameral legislature last week after they ordered impeachment proceedings against the court's majority.

The fired president of Congress, Jorge Cevallos, then turned to Ecuador's Constitutional Tribunal, which refused Tuesday to review his complaints until a majority of Congress members sign the appeal. Since the electoral court fired the lawmakers, Congress has lacked a quorum of members to convene a formal session.

Congresswoman Sylka Sanchez, one of the fired legislators who pushed past police Tuesday, said they had acted ``to prevent a dictatorship. We don't want dictatorship. We want democracy.''

Constitutional experts have said both the lawmakers and the court were violating the country's charter - not an uncommon occurrence in Ecuador, where Congress has illegally dismissed three elected presidents in the last decade after they lost popularity.

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