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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 05:35 GMT
Drive to impeach Ecuador leader
President Lucio Gutierrez
Gutierrez is the first Ecuadorean leader to face an impeachment bid
Deputies in Ecuador have presented a petition to Congress, triggering proceedings to try to sack President Lucio Gutierrez.

The petition, signed by 51 opposition lawmakers, will create a committee to investigate charges that Mr Gutierrez misused public funds.

Interior Minister Raul Baca said it was an attempt to destabilise the country.

The committee will meet next week to begin to consider whether there are grounds for a trial.

It will report to Congress within five days, which will vote on whether to proceed.

In Ecuador's one-chamber legislature, 67 votes out of 100 would be needed to remove the president, who was elected in 2002.

The only things we have on our side are the truth and the evidence
Cinthya Viteri, PSC MP

Mr Gutierrez is accused of using state funds for the last campaign of his Patriotic Society party.

The impeachment trial request has been made by the opposition Social Christian Party (PSC), Democratic Left, Democratic People's Movement and the indigenous Pachakutik, as well as some independents.

"The only things we have on our side are the truth and the evidence," said Cinthya Viteri, a member of the PSC.

'Revenge'

Mr Gutierrez says the impeachment attempt has been instigated by the family of former President Leon Febres Cordero, in revenge for moves to recover an alleged $110m of their unpaid debts.

"They have money and they do not feel like paying... I am going to make them pay, so they are trying to get me impeached," he said, according to AFP news agency.

"This is the fight of honest working people against the corrupt oligarchy."

Mr Baca said he was confident the opposition would not get the two-thirds majority in Congress needed to remove Mr Gutierrez.

Analysts say at present he probably has enough support in Congress to survive any impeachment vote.

It is the first time in Ecuador's history that such proceedings have been sought against a president.

When Mr Gutierrez, an ex-army colonel and former coup leader, won the presidency two years ago he pledged to stamp out corruption.




SEE ALSO:
Ask Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe
04 Nov 04  |  Have Your Say
Timeline: Ecuador
23 Sep 04  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Ecuador
01 Jun 04  |  Country profiles


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