Police, military mutiny in Ecuador

2010-09-30 19:47
A police official demonstrates next to a bonfire during a protest of police officers and soldiers against a new law that cuts their benefits at a police base in Quito, Ecuador. (Dolores Ochoa, AP)

A police official demonstrates next to a bonfire during a protest of police officers and soldiers against a new law that cuts their benefits at a police base in Quito, Ecuador. (Dolores Ochoa, AP)

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Quito - Police and rank-and-file military officers were refusing to obey orders in a large part of Ecuador on Thursday and had taken control of the largest police barracks in the capital as well as the airport.

Despite their leaders' expressed backing of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, military officers joined their police colleagues in protesting a law passed on Tuesday by the National Assembly, which eliminates decorations and bonuses.

Security Minister Miguel Carvajal said an insubordination attempt was being made based on misinformation, because such benefits have not been scrapped.

Military officers took over the runway at Quito's international airport.

They went as far as the hangar, which holds the presidential helicopter and plane, to prevent Correa from leaving.

General Luis Gonzalez, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces, had stressed earlier that the military remains "at the orders of their commander in chief, President Rafael Correa".

"The rule of law will prevail in Ecuador," Gonzalez said.

Around 1 000 police officers refused to obey orders beginning at 12:00 GMT and took control of the Quito Regiment, the largest police facility in the Ecuadorian capital.

President Correa visited the regiment, but failed to talk to the rebellious officers. He left with the warning that he will not take "a single step back".

"If they want to kill me, let them kill me," Correa said, baring his chest to show he had no bulletproof gear.

Bucketfuls of water hit Correa as he left, and he was pushed around as he tried to make his way out through a crowd.

His bodyguards used tear gas to facilitate his exit.

The mutiny spread quickly to the rest of Ecuador.

Several roads were blocked, local and international flights were cancelled and banks closed as police officers left their positions on traffic patrol, streets, airports and other key sites.

Shops also started to close, for fear of looting and other violence.

General Gonzalez stressed that the military will take "any measures that are appropriate and that the government requests", and he said they would preserve national security.

This is the first such crisis in unstable Ecuador since Correa took office in 2007.

Read more on:    rafael correa  |  ecuador  |  ecuador mutiny
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