Ecuador declares state of emergency

2010-09-30 21:46

Quito - Ecuador declared a state of emergency amid a coup attempt on Thursday, enabling the military to take over the functions of police taking part in the rebellion, Security Minister Miguel Carvajal said.

The country was plunged into political crisis as troops seized the country's main airport and stormed the Congress building.

About 150 renegade troops seized a runway at Ecuador's international airport in the capital Quito, as dozens of police protested on the streets against a new law which would strip them of some pay bonuses.

Dozens of police units took over government buildings in the country's other two main cities, Guayaquil and Cuenca, and Foreign Minister Ricardo Pitino blamed the insurrection on "sectors aiming to overthrow the government".


The uprising occurred as Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was in the hospital recovering from an operation on his knee, and the president said he was seeking refuge in the building fearing for his life.

"It is a coup attempt led by the opposition and certain sections of the armed forces and the police," Correa told local television.

"Whatever happens to me I want to express my love for my family and my homeland."

Correa charged that some police had tried to storm his hospital room on Thursday.

Won't step back

The Ecuadoran leader has vowed he will not bow in face of the protests, as the army chief threw his weight behind the Ecuadoran leader and vowed to restore order.

"No, I will not step back, if they want to seize the barracks, if they want to leave the citizens defenseless and betray their mission," Correa said earlier in a speech to soldiers from Quito's main regiment.

The largest demonstrations erupted in Quito where tear gas was used to try to disperse the crowds.

"The troops united will never be defeated," the demonstrators chanted, with some calling on the troops to join in the demonstrations.

But, army chief Ernesto Gonzalez threw his full support behind Correa.


Other South American countries, as well as the European Union (EU) have pledged their support to Correa.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia said he was ordering the immediate closure of the border with neighbouring Ecuador.

"I'm going to order that our borders are closed right now and that all trade on the northern border is halted until President Correa's authority is duly restored and resolved," Garcia said.

Garcia said foreign ministers from across South America would try to travel to Ecuador in a bid to resolve the conflict.

He also proposed a meeting of the regional ministers near to the border with Ecuador if they cannot make it into Ecuador.

No violence

Brazil said on Thursday it was giving its "total support" to the Ecuadorian president

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim expressed his country's backing in a telephone call to Ecuadorian counterpart Patino, Brazilian officials said in a statement.

Amorim, who is on an official visit to Haiti, also discussed the situation with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with whom he stressed his "preoccupation" at demonstrations in Ecuador said to involve soldiers and police.

Brazil's representative in the Organisation of American States was also instructed to follow the events.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced support for Ecuador's government and urged all sides to refrain from violence.