Correa issues warning against hostage takers for what he called a threat to the country’s democracy.
|Correa blamed supporters of former president and ex army colonel Lucio Gutierrez for the chaos [REUTERS]|
Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, has declared victory over renegade police officers he said were part of an attempt to overthrow, just days after violence that left eight people dead and 274 wounded.
“This was a great victory for the government,” Correa said in a nationally broadcast address from the presidential palace on Saturday.
Correa blamed supporters of Lucio Gutierrez, a former army colonel who was president from 2003 to 2005, for the chaos on Thursday, when he was trapped in a hospital by police protesting over plans to cut their benefits.
Airports were closed down, roads were blocked and renegade police officers clashed with supporters of the president before the army stepped in to bring the unrest to an end.
In his televised address, Correa said that Thursday was “surely the saddest day of my entire government and one of the saddest of my life”.
“Lives were lost, there were dozens of injured, Ecuadoreans against Ecuadoreans. How could it happen?” Correa asked after ordering three days of mourning for the victims.
Three police colonels have been placed under criminal investigation for failing to stop their subordinates from staging the protests, which spread to police stations in at least five of the country’s 24 provinces.
Officials did not name the three detained police colonels, but local media identified them as Manuel Rivadeneira, Julio Cesar Cueva and Marcelo Echeverria.
Correa on Saturday urged the public to support the police, saying the rebellion was the work of just “a few dozen bad elements”.
But Al Jazeera’s Monica Villamizar reporting from Quito said that Correa has said that there would be “no forgiveness” for those involved in the violence.
“As they say here, heads are expected to roll, and obviously there will be a purge of the police and certain small factions of the military forces as well,” she said.
Despite plans to punish those responsible for the uprising, Doris Soliz, the Ecuadorean policy minister, told the Reuters news agency on Saturday that Correa was planning some changes to the austerity measures that prompted the violence. She said that the law would be rewrite to clarify it, but ruled out any major changes.
Soliz also said that Correa had backed off the idea of dissolving congress and ruling by decree.
Correa, 47 was re-elected last year to a second term as president of the South American country of 14.5 million people.
Ecuador has a history riddled with violent political upheaval. Three of Correa’s predecessors from 1996 to 2006 – including Gutierrez – were ousted before completing their terms.
The US-educated economist has taken a tough stand with foreign investors and refused to repay some foreign debt, in moves welcomed by supporters who have blamed the effects of the economic crisis on foreign liberalism.