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.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Congress seeks to block Correa referendum

The Peninsular On-line, 3-4-07.

QUITO • Ecuador’s Congress voted on Friday to ask a top court to declare invalid President Rafael Correa’s proposal for a referendum on constitutional reforms.

The decision is likely to strain ties between lawmakers and Correa, a leftist elected in November after he promised to curb the influence of traditional parties whom many blame for instability and poverty in South America’s No. 5 oil producer.

After weeks of haggling, lawmakers in February agreed to Correa’s proposal for an April 15 vote to decide whether to call a special assembly to rewrite the constitution. They agreed after seeking limits on the powers of the assembly.

But lawmakers on Friday said Correa had since introduced a rewritten version of the guidelines for the referendum giving the proposed assembly broader powers, without first consulting the congress on the revisions.

The electoral court this week confirmed April 15 for the referendum, but lawmakers say they now want the constitutional court to declare it invalid because of unauthorized rewrites.

“They have betrayed constitutional principles by taking the step of convoking it in an unconstitutional way,” said Luis Almeida, a lawmaker with the Patriotic Society Party, or PSP, the second largest.

Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, says he wants to overhaul the political system and rewrite the constitution to reduce the influence of corrupt elites on key institutions such as the courts.

But his critics fear Correa will use a popular assembly to bypass the congress and secure broader presidential powers as Chavez did in Venezuela by eliminating limits on immediate re-election and extending the presidential term in office from five to six years.

Correa is popular and many Ecuadoreans are fed up with their traditional political class, but his political movement has no representatives in the congress. Correa’s supporters in January stormed the congress to demand lawmakers accept the president’s proposal for a referendum.

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