Yesterday Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was tear-gassed and roughed up by the police, was taken to a military hospital where he was held for several hours. From the start, Correa referred to the incident as a coup,
He was later rescued by the military following a gunfight during which reporters covering the story in the hospital had to take cover:
The trouble began early Thursday when some members of the military and national police walked off the job, protesting wage cuts proposed by the government. Members of Ecuador’s air force stormed the international airport in Quito and blocked the runway.
Protests quickly spread to other cities, leading to roadblocks and rioting. Banks were closed after several were robbed. In the country’s two other principal cities, Guayaquil and Cuenca, police took over government buildings, burned tires and set off tear gas, according to local media reports.
Following the incident Correa addressed a crowd gathered by the presidential palace (video in Spanish),
What provoked this incident, which Correa has blamed on everyone from his predecessor, to the media, to (what’s new?) the USA?
Correa had pushed a law that would cut salaries and terms of employment to the police and armed forces.
had gone to the barracks to address the police complaints in person. A shouting match ensued, and at one point, he loosened his tie and opened his shirt as if to show that he was not wearing a bulletproof vest. “If you want to kill the president, here he is,” he said. “Kill him, if you want to. Kill him if you are brave enough.”
The Washington Post reports that, following the coup (emphasis added), the message did not fall on deaf ears,
he also called for the law that provoked the unrest to be “reviewed or not placed into effect so public servants, soldiers and police don’t see their rights affected.”
The law, approved Wednesday by a Congress dominated by Correa loyalists, has not taken effect because it must first be published. It would end the practice of giving members of Ecuador’s military and police medals and bonuses with each promotion. It would also extend from five to seven years the usual period required for a subsequent promotion.
Ecuador has a long history of coups as a revolving door:
This poor Andean nation of 14 million people had a history of political instability before Correa, cycling through eight presidents in a decade before he first won election in December 2006. Three of those presidents were driven from office by street protests that plagued the oil-producing country.
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