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The BBC's James Reynolds
"This is an uncertain time in Ecuador"
 real 28k

Richard Lister in Washington
"The Clinton administration has been quick to condemn the unrest"
 real 28k

Saturday, 22 January, 2000, 00:42 GMT
Ecuador president defies military

Colonel Gutierrez, left, and Antonio Rivas Colonel Lucio Gutierrez, left, and Antonio Rivas


President Jamil Mahuad of Ecuador is defying a call from the armed forces for him to step down as head of state.

In a televised address, he said Ecuador did not want a dictatorship and he was not going to resign.



I cannot resign and leave Ecuador in chaos
President Mahuad
He demanded that the military authorities should punish those soldiers who had earlier taken part in the seizure of Congress.

President Mahuad was responding to a statement by Defence Minister Carlos Mendoza, which said the military had withdrawn its support.

"I will not accept insinuations that I should resign," he said.

"If this is a military coup which wants to take power by force, gentlemen, take power by force."

"I will fulfil my duties until the last moment. I cannot resign and leave Ecuador in chaos."

Shortly after the address, he left the presidential palace under armed escort. Reports said he was heading for a more secure location in the capital, but no details were given.

People's parliament

Several thousand indigenous Indian protesters who had sparked the power struggle by storming parliament and declaring a new government, later marched towards the vacated presidential palace.

Reports said the man the rebels have declared their new president, an army colonel Lucio Gutierrez, was heading the march.

Earlier, a military unit had joined the protesters occupying Ecuador's parliament to press for President Mahuad's resignation.


Protesters run into parliament Protesters run into the empty parliament building
The unit stood aside to allow some 1,500 demonstrators into the empty building before joining the demonstration.

Congress was not in session.

The protesters declared a new government, headed by Colonel Lucio Gutierrez, alleging that the existing administration was corrupt and did not serve the needs of the poor.

"Ecuadorian people, rise up and fight against corruption," said the colonel, standing next to Indian leader Antonio Rivas in the main chamber of congress.

"We have started a peaceful but unstoppable fight against another kind of slavery."

The so-called people's parliament issued a manifesto rejecting President Mahuad's plans to replace the sucre with the US dollar, and promising to establish an economy with new jobs and fair wages.

International condemnation

The United States has strongly condemned the coup attempt. The State Department called on Ecuador's armed forces to respect the constitution and warned that a coup would have disastrous consequences.


flaming tyre Police remove tyres set alight by protesters
Brazil, an influential voice in South America, condemned the attempt to force President Mahuad's resignation.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the government was confident Ecuador would overcome its difficulties, "in plain observation of democratic principles and constitutional order".

The Organisation of American States called an emergency meeting for late Friday to discuss the political crisis.

Protests

The take-over followed earlier protests in the capital, Quito, in which some 5,000 Indians demanded the resignation of President Mahuad, congress and the courts.

They argued that the government was incapable of turning around the country's worst recession in decades.

Earlier this month, the president declared a state of emergency to contain the nationwide protests.

Correspondents said the demonstrators promised to continue to disrupt life in Ecuador until the authorities resigned.

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See also:
19 Jan 00 |  Americas
Ecuador Indians confront government
16 Jan 00 |  Americas
Ecuadorean protests flop
11 Jan 00 |  Americas
Bank approves Ecuador dollar plan
10 Jan 00 |  Americas
Ecuadorian cabinet out
09 Jan 00 |  Americas
Ecuador army backs president

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