Clashes

 

Police fired tear gas to break up the crowd as at least three legislators sought a legal injunction against that decision.

 

"A mob assaulted us. They destroyed our cars and hurled rocks at us," Gloria Gallardo, an Ecuadorian politician, said.

 

Fifty-seven legislators rejected the electoral tribunal's decision to remove them of their governmental duties.

 

They wanted to block Correa's call for a referendum which aims to dilute the power of politicial parties in Ecuador.

 

Politicians want the judge in Rocafuerte, who ordered a temporary suspension of their dismissal, to overrule the verdict of the electoral tribunal, although the tribunal has often rejected rulings from lower courts.

 

Correa, a leftist ally of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, was elected by a wide margin last year on a pledge to battle political bosses many blame for chronic instability.

 

Ecuador has had eight presidents in ten years.

 

Correa, who is very popular in Ecuador, has demanded that politicians be replaced by substitutes from the same parties, a move that could weaken his strongest opponents in Congress.

 

Correa now faces his toughest challenge since taking office in January as opposition politicians have vowed to fight his political plans.

 

Police in Rocafuerte said protesters had vowed not to let the politicians back into the town.

 

Correa says he will not respect any decision by Congress or the courts to block the referendum.