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Friday, 14 July, 2000, 04:35 GMT 05:35 UK
Ecuador seeks arrest of ex-president
Jamil Mahuad
Mahuad is thought to be in the United States
By South American correspondent James Reynolds

The Supreme Court in Ecuador has ordered the arrest of the country's former president, Jamil Mahuad.

Mr Mahuad, who was forced from office in a coup in January this year, is charged with exceeding his constitutional powers when he ordered private bank deposits to be frozen last year.

President Noboa
President Noboa has stayed with existing policies
In a statement, the Supreme Court said it was seeking Jamil Mahuad's arrest because it had indications that he had committed crimes against the constitution.

It also ordered the detention of his former finance minister, Ana Lucia Armijos.

The court said it wanted the two to be put in preventative custody, and it ordered their respective assets to be frozen.

Outside Ecuador

It is thought that at the moment neither Jamil Mahuad nor Ana Lucia Armijos is in the country.

Mr Mahuad is thought to be in the United States and Mr Armijos somewhere in Europe.

The Supreme Court's arrest order comes after a request made by a congressional anti-corruption commission.

The commission found that Jamil Mahuad and Ana Lucia Armijos overstepped their powers when they ordered private bank deposits worth around $3bn to be frozen in March last year.

The move was part of the government's attempt to overcome the country's worst economic crisis in more than 50 years.

It was severely criticised at the time.

Amid widespread dissatisfaction with the government's inability to improve the economy, Mr Mahuad was eventually forced from office in a coup in January.

He was replaced by his vice-president, Gustavo Noboa, who has decided to continue with many of the same economic policies pursued by Mr Mahuad.

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Ecuador faces new economic protests
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