Brazil seeks passage for Gutierrez

Brazil and Ecuador are negotiating the fate of ousted Ecuadoran leader Lucio Gutierrez as his vice-president formally took over and announced a new government.

    Lucio Gutierrez (R) was voted out of office by Congress

    Alfredo Palacio, a 66-year-old cardiologist, assumed the presidential powers and calm returned to the Ecuadoran capital a day after Congress voted Gutierrez out of office following days of mounting protests, making him the third leader to be ousted in eight years. 

    The leftist ex-president, who was also disowned by the military, took refuge in the Brazilian embassy after protesters stopped a private plane he was in from taking off late on Wednesday. 

    Brazil has granted Gutierrez's request for political asylum, but Ecuador has not yet decided to let him leave. 

    The new interior minister, Mauricio Gandara, said: "If (Brazil) requests a safe-conduct, a safe-conduct cannot be denied," but Foreign Minister Antonio Parra Gil said the matter "must be studied".

    Slow process

    Brazilian Ambassador Sergio Florencio said a safe-conduct for
    Palacio was being worked out, but that the process was "not as fast as people think".

    Demonstrators slammed Brazil's
    decision to grant asylum

    A Brazillian air force jet was ready to pick up Gutierrez. Officials said the Boeing 737 was waiting at an air base in Rio Branco, in northwest Brazil. 

    Gandara said Palacio will serve out the rest of Gutierrez's
    four-year term, keeping him in office until early 2007. 

    "The country cannot jump from one thing to another," Gandara told Colombian radio station Caracol. 

    Gutierrez, a retired colonel best known for being a leader of a
    coup that ousted elected president Jamil Mahuad in 2000, had repeatedly refused to leave office, but his hand was forced when all three branches of the armed forces endorsed his ousting. 

    Anger had mounted for weeks over his proposed judicial reforms. At least two people were killed and 100 others injured during demonstrations this week that ended violently in clashes with police. 

    Demonstrators outside the Brazilian embassy braved an overnight downpour shouting "coward" and called on authorities to press charges against the deposed president. 

    SOURCE: AFP


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