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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 02:12 GMT 03:12 UK
Ecuador lifts state of emergency
Anti-government protest in Quito, Ecuador
Anti-government protests have continued regardless
Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez has lifted a state of emergency in the capital, Quito, less than 24 hours after he imposed it.

Thousands of people had taken to the streets of the city in defiance of the new emergency powers.

They were also protesting about his decision to dismiss the Supreme Court.

The magistrates were appointed by the president's allies in Congress in December, sparking a wave of popular street protests.

Mr Gutierrez had blamed the unpopular judges for three days of anti-government street marches.

Speaking on national television on Saturday, Mr Gutierrez said he was lifting the emergency measures because he had "obtained the principal objective, which is the dismissal of the Supreme Court".

Little by little, tranquillity is returning to the nation
President Lucio Gutierrez

"Little by little, tranquillity is returning to the nation," he said.

Congress had agreed to hold a special session to ratify his dismissal of the Supreme Court and debate a measure to depoliticise appointments, he added.

Opposition politicians have said the sacking of the judges is unlawful, and accuse Mr Gutierrez of being a dictator.

'Bias'

Up to 10,000 people have been protesting in the streets of Quito since Thursday, banging pans and demanding the president's resignation.

The unrest began in December, when Mr Gutierrez first fired the Supreme Court, alleging that the magistrates were biased against him.

Ecuador's President Lucio Gutierrez gestures to reporters
Opposition groups accuse Gutierrez of behaving like a dictator

The crisis deepened in March, when the new court dropped corruption charges against ex-President Abdala Bucaram.

Mr Bucaram's Roldosista Party had backed Mr Gutierrez's drive to replace the Supreme Court. The party also helped to block an opposition attempt to impeach Mr Gutierrez in November.

Opponents say dismissing the judges was part of a government deal to exonerate Mr Bucaram in return for his political support.

But Mr Gutierrez said the old court had to go because its judges were biased in favour of opposition parties, particularly the Social Christians.

Since 1997, two presidents of Ecuador have been forced out of office by street protests.



SEE ALSO:
Ecuador political crisis deepens
16 Apr 05 |  Americas
US offers to ease Ecuador crisis
08 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ecuador minister quits over court
22 Feb 05 |  Americas
Rival mass rallies grip Ecuador
17 Feb 05 |  Americas
Supreme Court in Ecuador replaced
10 Dec 04 |  Americas
Ecuador dismisses Supreme Court
09 Dec 04 |  Americas


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