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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 05:16 GMT 06:16 UK
Judge fired amid Ecuador deadlock
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa
Mr Correa backs the referendum the sacked lawmakers oppose
An Ecuadorean judge has reinstated 57 sacked legislators only to be removed himself, as the political deadlock in the South American nation continued.

Provincial judge Juan Ramirez issued an injunction blocking the 7 March move by an electoral tribunal which unseated more than half the country's lawmakers.

But the tribunal has now fired him, saying he acted illegally.

The sacked lawmakers oppose a referendum on constitutional change backed by President Rafael Correa.

Mr Correa has been embroiled in a bitter conflict with the opposition Congress since he took power in January.

He has argued that Congress is corrupt and the cause of many of the country's problems.

The referendum, set for 15 April, will ask Ecuadoreans if they want a national assembly to look at constitutional reform.

Mr Correa's opponents fear he will use the assembly to try and weaken the power of the legislature.

The lawmakers have already failed in one attempt to seek an injunction from another provincial judge.

Jorge Acosta, head of Ecuador's electoral tribunal, told the BBC that removing Judge Ramirez was justified.

"Anyone who tries to interfere in any way in the electoral process or any of the electoral tribunal's decisions is opening themselves up to being removed from office and deprived of their political privileges in accordance with the country's electoral laws," he said.

Last week, 21 substitute lawmakers were sworn in, giving Congress a quorum.


SEE ALSO
Ecuador ends Congress stalemate
20 Mar 07 |  Americas
MPs clash with police in Ecuador
14 Mar 07 |  Americas
Ecuador referendum row escalates
08 Mar 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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