Tension grows in Ecuador as President sacks Supreme Court

Thousands of Ecuadorians mobilize against President's authoritarian rule

The mobilization of thousands of Ecuadoreans made President Lucio Gutierrez to retract the state of emergency he decreed las weekend, but tension grows in the South American country as the Government confirmed its decision to fire the Supreme Court of Justice. Gutierrrez's move, seen by analysts as a self-coup aimed to inaugurate an authoritarian rule in Ecuador, has been condemned by USA and the European Union, while Latin American fellow nations kept silent.

Gutierrez said he lifted the emergency to make it easier to negotiate an end to a political crisis over the future of the Supreme Court, which he fired bydecree on Friday night. "I have lifted the state of emergency and ask for the maintenance of tranquillity and peace," the embattled president told a news conference.

However, the Ecuadorean citizenry refused to obey Gutierrez's orders filling the streets to claim for his resignation. People bashed saucepans and honked car horns in Quito, but the police did not break up demosntrations.

Gutierrez dismissed the Supreme Court to try to break a political deadlock over the future of the judiciary which has brought regular protests to thestreets and stirred memories of unrest which led to the ouster of two presidents since 1997. The opposition had accused judges of being biased towards the government and had demanded they be fired. But their dismissal by decree did not placate the opposition.

"(Gutierrez) has driven Ecuador to instability," Quito Mayor Paco Moncayo told reporters. "His resignation would be a patriotic service."

Lucio Gutierrez was elected in 2002 as champion of the poor. However, he deepened pro-market policies and a draconian dollarization plan that pushes thousands below the poverty line as destroys national industry. Ecuador had adopted the US dollar as the legal currency before Gutierrez, but he did not do anything to ease the situation of the vast majority of the population.

In a few months Gutierrez lost all of his popularity, as the political alliance with unions and indigenous leaders that led him to power broke into pieces. Since then, Gutierrez’s authoritarian tendences became more an more evident.

The fired court was appointed by a short-lived pro-government congressional majority in December, after the president managed to get Congress to fire an earlier Supreme Court he said was biased against him. The opposition accused him of behaving like a dictator and he lost his legislative majority.

On the photo: Ecuador's President Lucio Gutierrez, a former champion of the poor, turned into a conservative dictator

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Author`s name Olga Savka