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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 04:27 GMT 05:27 UK
Ecuador leader clashes with MPs
Protester with Gutierrez banner
If Gutierrez returns, it could complicate the situation
Ecuadorean President Alfredo Palacio has decided to call a referendum on re-writing the Constitution without going through Congress.

Mr Palacio has sent his proposal directly to the election authorities.

If it is approved, Ecuadoreans would be asked about convening an assembly with powers to change the Constitution and sack both Congress and the executive.

Earlier Congress speaker Wilfrido Lucero vowed to fight what he called decisions that threaten democracy.

Deputies have blocked previous attempts at political reform by President Palacio.

Prison video

Meanwhile, supporters of the ex-president, Lucio Gutierrez, called protests against his detention following his return from exile.

Mr Gutierrez was arrested for refusing to recognise Mr Palacio, but a judge is expected to rule shortly on an appeal presented by his legal team.

The Ecuadorean government has launched an investigation into how Mr Gutierrez managed to record a video over the weekend despite being in a high-security prison.

Mr Gutierrez was ousted by the Congress in April following street protests. He has renounced the asylum granted to him by Colombia.

Observers say his return could complicate a delicate political situation, following government capitulation to a strike in the oil-producing region.

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