Ecuador Calls State of Emergency : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Saturday, 3 February, 2001, 03:23 GMT Ecuador calls state of emergency

A week of protests has seen angry clashes in the capital Ecuadorean President Gustavo Noboa has declared a state of emergency in the face of mounting protests by Ecuadorean Indians against government austerity measures.

The presidential decree allows the army and police to use force for a limited period to re-establish order throughout the country.

Thousands of Ecuadorean Indians have intensified their protests against Mr Noboa's economic policies since talks between protest leaders and government negotiators failed on Friday.

In a BBC interview, the Indian leader, Antonio Vargas, blamed the government for the suspension of talks and said his supporters would paralyse the country.

About 4,000 of his supporters have been occupying Salesiana Polytechnic University near downtown Quito since Monday, using it as a base for demonstrations.

They are demanding that the president rescind a 100% increase in fuel prices and a 75% hike in public transport fares.

Far-reaching powers

"Right now, we are going through a state of internal upheaval," said Mr Noboa's spokesman, who explained that the president was acting within his constitutional rights.

"At the moment the situation has disappeared, the state of emergency will be immediately lifted," the spokesman, Alfredo Negrete, said.

The emergency powers allow the government to limit group meetings and nationwide travel, inspect private homes and dispatch military and police forces as necessary.

On Thursday, two indigenous leaders were arrested and released shortly afterwards - Mr Vargas, who is president of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, and Estuardo Remache, president of the Confederation of Quechua Peoples of Ecuador.

'Tricked' from power

It is a little over a year since thousands of indigenous protestors took part in the military coup which brought down President Jamil Mahuad.

For a few hours their leader, Antonio Vargas, was a member of an ad hoc ruling junta. But shortly after the coup the armed forces handed power to Gustavo Noboa, the then vice president.

Indigenous leaders felt that they had been tricked and they have mistrusted Mr Noboa ever since.

Government leaders have defended Noboa's economic programme - an IMF backed plan in which the US dollar replaces the sucre - as the only means to fight inflation that has peaked over 90%, the highest level in Latin America.

-- Rachel Gibson (, February 03, 2001

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