Thursday, September 30, 2010

Police uprising in Ecuador

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa a little while ago (source: Diario Hoy Flickr page)

UPDATE 10:30 PM EDT:Soldiers successfully rescued President Correa. There appear to be a number of wounded, both civilians and members of the security forces who were shooting at each other.

UPDATE 10:00 PM EDT:Army soldiers attempting to rescue the president are in a firefight with police outside the hospital where President Correa is being held by rebelling police. Teleamazonas live feedTeleSur feed

UPDATE 4:00 PM EDT: President Rafael Correa has declared a state of emergency, giving the armed forces -- who mostly remain loyal -- responsibility for internal security duties. Some accounts indicate that, in some cities, police are abandoning their protest. The U.S. ambassador to the OAS expressed support for Ecuador's elected government at a meeting of the Permanent Assembly. However, police -- reportedly members of an elite unit -- continue to surround the hospital where President Correa reported after an earlier incident (involving either tear gas exposure or aggravation of a recently injured knee). Even as President Correa remains inside, giving interviews and issuing statements, all who try to approach the hospital are being repelled with tear gas.

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Police all over Ecuador have mutinied to protest cuts to their benefits, one of several legislative provisions that President Rafael Correa had said he might dissolve Congress to push through. (Ecuador's new Constitution allows the president, once per term, to break a legislative impasse by dissolving Congress with Constitutional Court approval.)

  • Police have either failed to report to work, or have organized roadblocks. In some areas -- including Quito's airport, which is closed -- elements of the military have joined in.
  • President Correa tried to address police protesters in Quito, but was taken from the scene and briefly hospitalized after having a tear-gas canister burst in his vicinity.
  • Correa told an interviewer from the TeleSur network that the mutiny is the work of the right-wing political opposition. He says he will purge the police membership once this ends.
  • There are reports of massive looting in Guayaquil as police refused to do their duties all morning.
  • Police have surrounded the National Assembly, according to TeleSur.
  • The OAS Permanent Council is to meet at 2:00 today to discuss the situation.

This is a rapidly evolving story -- it's not clear yet whether things are getting worse or calmer. It's also not clear whether this remains principally a protest about police benefits, or whether it is expanding into something larger having to do with civil-military relations and political opposition to President Correa and his government.

Ecuadorian newspaper sites (El Comercio, Hoy, El Universo and others) are loading very slowly. Twitter is a good source of information: here is my "Latin_America_Updates" list, which is showing a few Ecuador updates per minute as of 2PM EDT.

For real-time updates directly from Ecuador, here is a Twitter feed put together by the Ecuadorian newspaper Hoy: