01 October 2010

Follow-up on Coup Attempt in Ecuador

The news is starting to clarify around the attempted coup in Ecuador.

Ecuador was under a state of siege Friday, with the military in charge of public order after rescuing President Rafael Correa from a hospital where he had been surrounded, roughed up and tear gassed by rebellious police.

Correa and his ministers called Thursday's revolt — in which insurgents also paralyzed the nation with airport shutdowns and highway blockades — an attempt to overthrow him and not just a simple insurrection over a new law that cuts benefits for public servants.

At least three people — two police officers and a soldier — were killed and dozens injured in the clashes, said Irina Cabezas. the vice president of congress. Five soldiers were wounded — two critically — in the firefight at the hospital before Correa was removed at top speed in an SUV, according to the military and Red Cross.

Correa was trapped for more than 12 hours in the hospital, where he was being treated for the tear-gassing that nearly asphyxiated him when he tried to reason with angry police officers at a capital barracks. The officers also roughed him up and pelted him with water.

The region's leaders and the United States have expressed firm support for Correa. Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales, summoned South American presidents to an emergency meeting Friday in Buenos Aires of the continent's fledgling UNASUR defense union.

Correa, 47, speaking from the balcony of the Carondelet palace after his dramatic rescue, told hundreds of cheering supporters that Thursday "was the saddest day of my life." He thanked those who had converged on the hospital Thursday "ready to die to defend democracy" — his loyalists had hurled stones at mutinous police, who repelled them with tear gas.

The president said 27 of his special forces bodyguards had been injured in the melee and the unrest was not just a pay dispute.

"There were lots of infiltrators, dressed as civilians, and we know where they were from," the U.S.-trained leftist economist shouted.

By: Brant

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