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, November 16, 2007

Ecuador lawmakers vow to stay, challenge assembly

By Alonso Soto

QUITO, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Ecuadorean lawmakers vowed on Thursday to stay in office in a last-ditch attempt to challenge a government-controlled assembly that plans to shut down Congress and implement far-reaching constitutional reforms.

Leftist President Rafael Correa has called Congress "shameless" and wants the popular assembly to dissolve the legislature in a move to curb the influence of traditional elites who many Ecuadoreans blame for political instability.

Congress voted on Thursday to delay its year-end recess and keep working while the assembly rewrites the constitution during a 6-month debate expected to begin later this month.

The move could stir tensions with Correa, who has clashed with Congress over some key bills since his election last year. Opposition lawmakers say Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, wants to build up authoritarian power in South America's No. 5 oil producer.

"We are going to continue working because that is the only way we can counter the government's planned coup against the legislature," said opposition lawmaker Luis Almeida. "We will only leave if they force us out with bayonets."

Ecuador's lawmakers have been involved in toppling three presidents in the last decade.

Foreign investors fear the new assembly will pave the way for Correa to advance with his leftist agenda, hurting the Andean country's economy and its capacity to repay debt. He has rattled Wall Street with talk of a foreign bond renegotiation.

Alberto Acosta, a left-winger close to Correa and the government's pick to lead the 130-member assembly, said the assembly will take over congressional powers.

"When we get into office lawmakers will have to go home, without pay or immunity," Acosta told Reuters in a telephone interview. "The country will change."

Acosta said the assembly could vote on future bills proposed by Correa or a smaller assembly commission could take the role of Congress.

In another show of defiance, Congress on Wednesday voted to eliminate a series of emergency decrees ordered by Correa to bypass controls in order to inject millions of dollars into social projects.

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