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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Ecuador ex-head flies into exile
Anti-government protest in Quito, Ecuador
Ecuador has been rocked by anti-government protests
Ecuador's ousted President Lucio Gutierrez has arrived in the Brazilian capital to take up an offer of asylum.

Mr Gutierrez fled to Brasilia four days after Ecuador's Congress dismissed him amid a wave of popular protests.

He sought refuge first at the Brazilian embassy in the capital, Quito, and left through a back gate on Sunday, evading protesters surrounding the mission.

Brazil gave asylum to Mr Gutierrez against the wishes of the Ecuadorean government, which wanted him arrested.

The ex-president is believed to have left the embassy compound in a white police vehicle early on Sunday, disguised in a dark uniform complete with helmet and balaclava, the BBC's Hannah Hennessy reports from Quito.

I am not a thief... to the contrary, I was collecting the debts from the thieves
Deposed President Lucio Gutierrez

Mr Gutierrez was taken by helicopter from the city's main airport to La Tacunga air base, 90km (55 miles) south of Quito, where he boarded an Brazilian air force plane.

He arrived at Brasilia's air base shortly after 1330 local time (1630 GMT) and is expected to be allowed to stay in a military residence in the capital.

He was accompanied by his wife Ximena and his younger daughter Viviana. The elder daughter, Carina, had decided to remain in Ecuador, Brazilian media reports said.

Street protests

Mr Gutierrez was deposed by the Ecuadorean Congress after a week of massive street protests.

He had faced growing discontent over his decision to implement economic austerity policies approved by the International Monetary Fund.

But the fate of his administration was sealed in December last year, when he tried to dismiss the country's Supreme Court by removing 27 of its 31 judges.

The replacement judges dropped corruption charges against two former presidents, fuelling popular anger. Finally Mr Gutierrez had the new court fired as well, but it was too late to salvage his presidency.

Congress ousted him after he endorsed the use of violence to put an end to the protests, in which at least one person had died.

Alfredo Palacio, who was sworn in as the new president, then issued an arrest warrant for his predecessor.

Mr Gutierrez is the country's third president since 1997 to have been driven from office.

He has described his removal from office as unconstitutional.

"I am not a thief. I have not stolen. To the contrary, I was collecting the debts from the thieves," he said on the phone on Friday.

But the new government in Ecuador has rejected his claims.

It argued that Mr Gutierrez was himself guilty of pulling apart the constitutional system, and ruled out any chance he would ever be reinstated.

Protests are growing in Quito

Q&A: Ecuador's latest upheaval
24 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ex-Ecuador leader granted asylum
21 Apr 05 |  Americas
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

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