After spending most of Thursday kidnapped in a hospital, the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, was rescued in a military operation carried out during the night by armed forces.
Intense shootings between the military forces trying to break into the hospital to rescue the president and rebel policemen defending their stronghold continued throughout the night. There were several civilian, police, and military casualties.
Hundreds of armed policemen in the capital of Ecuador rebelled against the government Thursday, seizing several government buildings and protesting against the elimination of police bonuses and awards as a consequence of the approval of the new Law of Civil Service by the National Assembly on Sept. 29.
The insubordinate policemen were supported by some elements of the military, which occupied the Ministry of Defense and the International Airport of Quito, the country’s capital. Other important buildings occupied by protesters included the Parliament and several police headquarters.
The government of Ecuador declared a weeklong state of emergency to be held throughout the nation and has deployed the armed forces to enforce security.
President Rafael Correa went to meet some of the protesters at the Quito Police Regiment and tried to talk to the angry crowd, but the policemen started a commotion and began throwing tear gas at the president. President Correa was taken to a hospital to recover.
“I am recovering right now, receiving serum and treatment on my recently operated knee. When the conditions are ripe, I will appear in public. I’m being informed that the hospital is being surrounded. It would be the worst of betrayals to the fatherland if the president were to be kidnapped,” Correa said in a phone interview from the hospital, published on the official website of the presidential dispatch.
“I am not going to give in. If they want to come looking for me here, shoot me and let the Republic continue. They may kill me—like Neruda used to say, they may cut the flowers, but they cannot avoid the arrival of spring,” he added.
All of the country’s television and radio channels have been ordered to transmit an overall government-sponsored broadcast of the situation at all times.
Meanwhile, former President Lucio Gutierrez has publicly asked for the dissolution of the Parliament and early presidential elections, considering it a solution to the crisis. “The only one responsible for this crisis is the abusive, corrupt, and arrogant government of Rafael Correa,” Gutierrez said in a phone interview with EFE.
Doris Solis, the Ecuadorian minister of Politics, said in a public statement on Sept. 29 that the Civil Service Law caused a conflict between the president and the legislative power. The majority of the National Assembly rejected several articles contained within the law; however, a presidential line-item veto caused the law to be enacted, disregarding the position of the Parliament.
According to Minister Solis, the president is considering the possibility of dissolving the National Assembly and calling for early general elections.