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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Ecuadorian leader refuses to quit
Anti-government protest in Quito, Ecuador
Anti-government protests have been spreading
Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez has refused to step down, as anti-government demonstrations spread outside the capital, Quito.

"There is not the least possibility. I was elected for four years," Mr Gutierrez told the AP news agency.

Protesters have been demonstrating all week against what they see as his attempt to illegally control the judiciary and legislature.

A state of emergency imposed last week was lifted on the weekend.

'President blamed'

The trouble dates back to December, when Mr Gutierrez first fired the judges of the Supreme Court, alleging they were biased against him.

The new court promptly dropped outstanding corruption charges against one of Mr Gutierrez's allies, former 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.

In Ecuador when there is an earthquake, they blame the president
Lucio Gutierrez

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.

Demonstrations have been taking place in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, as well as in Quito and the cities of Machala on the Pacific coast and Cuenca and Riobamba in the Andean highlands.

On Monday, in a bid to defuse the crisis, President Gutierrez sacked the judges of the Supreme Court.

Congress then voted to set up a commission to appoint new members to the court.

Mr Gutierrez told AP he was not worried that Congress might again try to impeach him.

"I'm not going to worry about those threats," he said.

"In Ecuador when there is an earthquake, they blame the president. When there is a drought, they blame the president. When prices don't go up, they say it is the work of God, not the president," he said.

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

Ecuador's Congress sacks judges
18 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ecuador lifts state of emergency
17 Apr 05 |  Americas
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

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