Ecuador's Congress removes President after popular rebellion

Lucio Gutierrez left the presidential palace by helicopter and asked for political asylum in Brazil

Ecuador's President Lucio Gutierrez has been removed from power on Wednesday by the national Congress, after a week-long popular rebellion in the capital, Quito, and country’s main cities. The Parliament voted to oust Gutierrez, who left the presidential palace by helicopter and found political asylum in the Brazilian Embassy.

The country's vice-president, Alfredo Palacio, has been proclaimed head of this South American state after obtaining support from the Armed Forces. “The dictatorship is over”, said Palacio after being sworn in and proised not to close the Parliament and rule “side by side with the people of Ecuador.”

The political crisis began earlier last week and recruited on Monday. Clashes between protesters demanding Gutierrez's resignation and the police left at least five people killed, one Chilean reporter among them.

Gutierrez had dissolved the Supreme Court of Justice on Friday to try to placate protests after his then congressional allies in December fired 27 of the court's 31 judges and named replacements sympathetic to his government. The controversial pro-Gutierrez court voted to release former President Abdala Bucaram from his corruption charges allowing him to return to Ecuador.

Bucaram is widely hated by Ecuadoreans who see him as the main responsible for country’s suffering. Since Gutierrez's court favoured former President, the opposition tied Bucaram to Gutierrez and began demanding President's resignation.

After dissolving the Supreme Court, Gutierrez declared the State of Emergency in Quito, but the population filled the street in wide disobedience to their President. The military, which under the state of emergency was charged with maintaining public order, was not visible on the streets Saturday as thousands of people disobeyed the decree and staged a peaceful demonstration, punctuated by the honking horns and shouts of "Lucio Out!" and "Democracy yes, dictatorship, no!".

The US and the United Nations asked Ecuadoreans to remian calm and called on a peceful transition in the South American nation.

Mr Gutierrez, a former army colonel from the Amazonian forests of Ecuador's interior, came to power in November 2002 on a wave of left-wing populism, but failed to fulfil many of his electoral promises because of political weakness and deference to both the United States and the International Monetary Fund.

On the photo: Gutierrez's helicopter leaves Ecuadorean presidential palace, The Carondelet, in Quito

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Author`s name Olga Savka