Ecuador President Lucio Gutierrez is removed

Lawmakers in Ecuador voted Wednesday to remove embattled President &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Lucio Gutierrez from office after a week of escalating street protests demanding his ouster, and they swore in Vice President Alfredo Palacio to replace him.

In Brazil, that country's Foreign Ministry said in statement Wednesday night that Gutierrez, a close U.S. ally, was in the Brazilian Embassy in Quito and has asked for political asylum. The statement said the Brazilian government is taking the necessary steps to grant asylum. Hours earlier, an unidentified army officer in combat gear said on television that Gutierrez and his wife, Congresswoman Ximena Bohorquez, had left the presidential palace. An Associated Press photographer saw a small helicopter land briefly on the palace roof and a figure climb aboard, informs ABC News.

According to the New York Times, protests picked up momentum on April 13, with demonstrators accusing Mr. Gutierrez of a power grab. In Quito, where the protests began, a small FM radio station, La Luna, marshaled people for daily anti-government rallies. "I feel like we lit a fuse and that there was so much repressed anger that it just kept burning," said Ramiro Pozo, the news director at La Luna. On Wednesday, anti-government lawmakers voted to end Mr. Gutierrez 's term based on a vague article in the Constitution that permits a president's removal for "abandonment of the post." The congressmen said that by disbanding the Supreme Court and calling for a state of emergency on Friday the president had violated the Constitution.

The president had insisted to reporters that he would not resign, but on Wednesday his political situation became untenable after the military withdrew its support. At a news conference, Gen. Víctor Hugo Rosero, head of the armed forces, said the military could not "remain indifferent before the pronouncements of the Ecuadorean people." Then the head of the national police force, Gen. Jorge Poveda, also resigned, saying, "I cannot continue to be a witness to the confrontation with the Ecuadorean people."

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