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Ecuador arrests alleged ring leaders of police revolt; denies US involvement

Wednesday, October 6th 2010 - 18:35 UTC
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President Correa’s management of the country’s finances questioned President Correa’s management of the country’s finances questioned

At least 46 Ecuador's national police members were arrested for their possible involvement in last week's revolt that the administration of President Rafael Correa called a 'coup attempt' which included the 'assassination' of the Head of State, the office of the public prosecutor informed.

According to Ecuador's Interior Minister, Gustavo Jalkh, the arrests made are “preventive and will initially stand for 24 hours, while further measures will be decided upon today's audience”.

Thus, the 46 police members will join Fidel Araujo, who used to be a top aide of ex President Lucio Gutiérrez and who's also under investigation. Araujo's link to the uprising was triggered after he was spotted on several images camcorded at the National Police “Quito Número Uno” base, during the very first hours of the revolt.

The Ecuadorean government has accused the political group of former president Gutiérrez of having instigated police officers to move forward with the failed coup d'etat attempt that ended with an intense shooting between the rebel policemen and the Army commandos trying to rescue president Correa from a hospital where the leader had been hospitalized due to tear gas suffocation but later held by the angry police members for long nine hours.

Meanwhile Foreign Affairs minister Ricardo Patiño said he was convinced that US President Barack Obama administration was not involved in a coup attempt or police insubordination.

“I strongly believe Mr. Obama had nothing to do with all this, hopefully none of the main members of his administration”, said Patiño who nevertheless added he couldn’t say the same about the ‘power groups’ who unfortunately “are not always under the control of the US president”.

To back up his suspicions Patiño mentioned that the “Anti-narcotics” unit of the Ecuadorian police, ‘trained by US officers’, last Thursday ‘had taken the Quito airport for a second time’.

US ambassador Heather Hodges said that the US administration supports the democratic government of President Correa because “he was democratically elected”.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales claim there could be ‘a possible US participation’ in the attempted coup in Ecuador.

However analysts point to the poor management of the country’s finances and the burgeoning deficit (5% of GDP) as the main reason for the unrest in Ecuador and among its police and armed forces.

This includes a doubling of public spending, defaulting on more than 3.2 billion USD worth of foreign debt in 2008 and scaring off investment dollars with revolutionary hostility - thereby drying up various sources of revenue.

In the run-up to the crisis, Correa asked the National Assembly to pass laws aimed at squeezing certain sectors of the state to boost others. Some proposals generated resistance even from his supporters, including one that would raise the amount of debt the government could incur and another that would have the banks buying government bonds with their reserves.

Those laws have not yet been approved. The bill that was approved after incorporating the president's objections to a previous version - the “public services” law - would, among other things, limit the benefits of the security forces. Hence the police protest.

The police unsubordinated leaving the streets unguarded and taking over their bases. Instead of giving them an ultimatum and subsequently ordering the armed forces to seize control, Correa went to the main barracks, the Regimiento Quito 1, to confront the protesters and daring them to kill him. Inevitably, tempers were raised and the protesters became dangerous, throwing teargas at Correa.

At no point did the armed forces seek to depose Correa or signal that they wanted him removed. The top ranks of the military, including army Chief Ernesto Gonzalez, gave their full support to the legitimately elected president.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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