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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April 2005, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Gutierrez squeezed by both sides
By Simon Watts
BBC News, Miami

Ecuador's former President Lucio Gutierrez
Lucio Gutierrez was elected amid high expectations
The downfall of Lucio Gutierrez is the latest episode in a battle in Latin America between left-leaning presidents and the traditional elites that oppose them.

Mr Gutierrez was elected in 2002 as a firebrand in the mould of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Like Mr Chavez, he was a mestizo former military officer who had first won a reputation in an uprising against the brand of conservative economics known in Latin America as neo-liberalism.

He opposed the dollarisation of the Ecuadorian economy and forged close links with the powerful indigenous movement.

Once in office though, Mr Gutierrez changed course. Faced with a difficult economic scenario, he opted to follow the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund.

Fatal move

That lost Mr Gutierrez the support of his indigenous allies and his political weakness encouraged Ecuador's traditional parties to try to get rid of him.

They had always dominated the Supreme Court, so in an effort to make the country more governable, Mr Gutierrez and his supporters tried to overhaul it.

But they appeared to break the constitution in doing so, and in a fatal move, the new chief justice quashed corruption charges against a former President, Abdala Bucaram.

That allowed Mr Bucaram to return from exile just as Mr Gutierrez was courting his party's support in Congress.

Powerful opposition mayors organised big rallies and strikes.

They were joined by middle-class Ecuadorians who had concluded that the whole political class was corrupt.

When violence began to develop, the president's position quickly became untenable.


SEE ALSO
Ex-Ecuador president seeks asylum
21 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ecuador Congress sacks president
20 Apr 05 |  Americas
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

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