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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 00:41 GMT
MPs clash with police in Ecuador
Congress Vice-President Edison Chavez (left) confronts police
The lawmakers say they were unlawfully dismissed
Sacked opposition lawmakers in Ecuador have clashed with riot police while trying to regain their seats.

Tear gas was fired at a group of 20 former MPs as they forced their way into Congress. Two of their supporters were later shot and wounded.

The demonstrators were part of a group of 57 legislators dismissed for trying to block a referendum proposed by left-wing President Rafael Correa.

He has vowed to curb the powers of what he calls a "corrupt" Congress.

The congressmen and women fought their way through police cordons into the congress building in the capital, Quito, to take up their seats.

After failing to gather a quorum, they left the building and faced an angry pro-government crowd outside.

Later unidentified gunmen fired shots at anti-government protesters, wounding two.

Power struggle

President Correa blamed the sacked MPs for the violence. "We are peaceful people," he said. He added that a referendum, aimed at re-writing the constitution and limiting the power of Congress, will go ahead as scheduled next month.

BBC Latin America correspondent Daniel Schweimler says the conflict is going to get worse, with demonstrations in favour of the referendum expected before the 15 April vote.

Tuesday's clashes are the latest round of a power struggle between Ecuador's president, lawmakers and the judiciary.

Mr Correa is Ecuador's eighth president in 10 years.

He came to power two months ago promising radical changes to limit the power of the traditional political parties, which he blames for corruption and poverty.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Sacked MPs try to storm the congress building



SEE ALSO
Ecuador referendum row escalates
08 Mar 07 |  Americas
Ecuador Congress backs referendum
13 Feb 07 |  Americas
Protesters storm Ecuador Congress
31 Jan 07 |  Americas
Ecuador swears in new president
16 Jan 07 |  Americas
Profile: Ecuador's Rafael Correa
27 Nov 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Ecuador
15 Jan 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Ecuador
15 Feb 07 |  Country profiles

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