Report: Attempted Police Coup Against Left-Leaning President Rocks Ecuador
Editor's note: this is a breaking news story, and the details in following the report haven't yet been corroborated.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa denounced an attempted coup organized by the opposition. Correa, who is currently in the police hospital in Quito, recovering from police aggression, warned that various members of the police were trying to enter his room, and held the police responsible for whatever might happen to him.
Citizens demonstrated in the center of Quito to support President Correa. Foreign Affairs Mininster Ricardo Patiño called for the President to be rescued from the police hospital.
Chief of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, Ernesto González, declared his support for Correa and assured that the military remains subordinate to the government's authority.
The tension in Ecuador built following passage of the Public Services Law in the National Assembly last night, over which police from the Quito Regiment along with various police agencies across the country began protesting this morning. They are demanding that various benefits, such as medals, bonuses and other benefits, not be rescinded. The government responded by announcing that the police had received substantial salary increases and that the bonuses which will allegedly be taken away would be compensated for in their wages.
The protests led to serious incidents when President Rafael Correa was attacked with tear gas by the police after arriving at the Quito Regiment at 9:30am in an attempt at dialogue. Correa, who is recovering from a knee operation, spoke to the police, saying, “If you want to kill me, kill me.” In response, according to Correa's reports, the police threw tear gas at him, causing him to fall on his knee, after which he had to be physically supported as he entered the police hospital where he is currently recovering (as of 12:30 pm local time).
The police also took over the National Assembly building and attacked assembly members along with one journalist from TeleAmazonas. According to Radio La Luna, the assembly member who was attacked was Linda Machuca. Assembly Member for Alianza País (Correa's Country Alliance party) Paco Velasco indicated that the aggression against assembly members is evidence of a conspiracy.
With police activities suspended, the streets, banks, airport, and other areas were left unguarded. In Guayas province, the police blocked the bridge that allows vehicle access to the city of Guayaquil. The police also took to the streets of Guayaquil, burning tires and interrupting traffic. Delinquents took advantage of the lack of police vigilance to commit assaults and robberies in both Guayaquil and the city of Cuenca.
Orlando Pérez, leader of the official political movement Alianza País, said that ex-President Lucio Gutierrez is behind the conspiracy, along with his supporters in the Patriotic Society Party (PSP).
Assembly Member Cléver Jimenez, head of the indigenous Pachakutik party, asked for President Correa to resign, and called for social movements to form a single national front.
Groups of citizens demonstrated in the streets of Quito, gathering in Independence Plaza in front of the Government's Palace. Later, they moved toward the police hospital in northwest Quito to try to rescue President Correa. Groups of police, in the area of the Quito Regiment and elsewhere, attacked citizens demonstrating support for Correa.
The former president of the National Assembly, Alberto Acosta, indicated on Public Radio that this is the moment to reject this attempted coup, wherever it comes from and that it is necessary to sanction those who have carried out this abuse of power. Regardless of whether the police are correct in their demands, he said, this is not the appropriate way to protest. Citizens, he added, should mobilize in defense of democracy, as well as the life of the President of the Republic.
Translated from the Spanish original by the Ecuador Solidarity Network.