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Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ecuadorean president lifts state of emergency decree

April 17, 2005

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— After thousands of protesters took to the streets Saturday in defiance of a state of emergency he had imposed the day before, President Lucio Gutierrez yielded to the demonstrators and lifted the decree.

Gutierrez had suspended civil liberties in Quito, the capital, late Friday following three nights of protests against his rule. On Saturday, the order was largely ignored. The mayor of Quito, a key opposition leader, called on residents to disobey the state of emergency, which suspended freedom of speech and the right to assembly.

"The people cannot live as they are today, in a dictatorship," Mayor Paco Moncayo said. "Instead of correcting his mistakes, the president has only created more chaos."

Opposition to Gutierrez, a former army colonel, has grown since December, when the president and his congressional allies purged the Supreme Court of justices who had supported a failed attempt to have him impeached on corruption charges.

Following the purge, the president stacked the court with his allies. In his speech Friday suspending civil liberties, the president also dismissed all 31 of the high-court's justices in a concession to the opposition. The president of Congress announced Saturday night there will be a special session of the legislature Sunday to discuss the law covering the appointment of Supreme Court justices and the future composition of the court.

About noon Saturday, roughly 10,000 protesters gathered on Shyris Avenue in northern Quito and other points to defy the state of emergency.

Many of the demonstrators waved Ecuadorean flags and drove the city streets honking horns.

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