3 Oct 2010

Ecuador's President backs off dissolving Congress

3:39 pm on 3 October 2010

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has backed off the idea of dissolving Congress and ruling by decree after new austerity measures triggered a bloody police revolt last week.

On Friday, as unrest flared across the country, President Correa said he might dissolve Congress, which would have meant a call for new elections.

This was seen as a tactic to bypass a deadlocked legislature and try to solidify his power.

But Policy Minister Doris Soliz says this measure is not part of the immediate scenario.

And she says the government plans to rewrite the austerity law to clarify it, rather than make any major changes.

She did not rule out using decree powers if the Congress continued to block laws.

President vows to punish renegade police

President Correa vowed on Saturday to round up and punish renegade police who staged the short-lived rebellion, and will investigate opponents he accuses of trying to mount a coup.

The police were angered by moves to cut bonuses and freeze promotions as part of nationwide spending cuts that the President is trying to push through during a financial squeeze.

The law takes effect on Monday.

"We were ambushed, it was a political trap," President Correa said during his weekly address on state television on Saturday, speaking over footage that showed him being physically attacked by police and engulfed in clouds of tear gas.

After being assaulted, the President was trapped for hours inside a hospital on Thursday afternoon with police surrounding the building, a standoff that ended when troops rescued him in a night raid.

On his show on Saturday, President Correa showed TV images of the rescue operation with troops crawling across the ground as volleys of gunfire tracers streaked across the night sky.

"We have to investigate to the very bottom of this," he said. "We will identify a lot of people (from the video)."

Eight people were killed in unrest across the country.

There are some signs that life has returned to normal in Quito but heavily armed troops have been brought in to bolster security in and outside the presidential palace.

The protests were the most serious challenge for President Correa, who took office in 2007 and won a second term in 2009.