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.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ecuador's Correa and Congress in power struggle

By Alonso Soto

QUITO (Reuters) , Mar 9, 2007 - Ecuador's Congress suspended its session on Thursday after police surrounded it to enforce a court ruling to fire 57 lawmakers in a power struggle between President Rafael Correa and the opposition.

Correa hopes to limit his rivals' influence with an April 15 referendum aimed at drafting constitutional reforms, but he faces growing resistance inside Congress.

The feud highlights Correa's troubles governing a country where three presidents have been ousted in a decade, but the left-winger is highly popular after promising to take on lawmakers who many blame for Ecuador's chronic instability.

"My countrymen, you have a true government that will not fail you," Correa told a cheering crowd inside the presidential palace. "There is no going back on the referendum."

Police carrying riot shields and batons greeted the 28 lawmakers who showed up before Congress' president cancelled the morning session because not enough of the total 100 members were present.

Local television showed protesters beating a lawmaker in a hotel car park, and another sped away as demonstrators kicked and banged his car. Neither was seriously hurt.

In a conciliatory tone, Congress president Jorge Cevallos later said he was open to talks with Correa to find a solution to the political deadlock.

"We want to restore peace and stability," Cevallos said.

Congress initially approved Correa's plan for a reform referendum, but opposition legislators say he then changed its text. They now want the vote halted and their demand is before Ecuador's constitutional court.

On Tuesday, 52 lawmakers voted to fire the election court's president, Jorge Acosta, in a move to delay the referendum and secure an opposition majority in the court.

The election court hit back on Wednesday, ruling the 52 and five others had violated the constitution and would be stripped of their political rights for one year.


"We will call local mayors and local officials to support our front against this totalitarian government," opposition lawmaker Carlos Larreategui said.

He said the fired members will appeal to the Organisation of American States for help to invalidate the court ruling.

Correa, a political outsider elected in November, has no official representatives in Congress. His foes say he wants to bypass the legislature and consolidate presidential authority with a special assembly on constitutional reforms as his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, did after his 1998 election.

"For the first time we are seeing a weak Congress and a government that has the upper hand," said Adrian Bonilla, director of Ecuador's branch of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences. "I believe the government will probably win this time."

Correa, a former economy minister, has rattled Wall Street and Washington with plans to reform foreign debt, rewrite oil contracts and end an agreement allowing the U.S. military to use an air base in Ecuador for counter-narcotics operations.

Political parties often fight for appointments that will allow them to control the key electoral and constitutional courts in Ecuador, South America's No. 5 oil producer.

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