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  HOME | Ecuador (Click here for more)

Bill That Spurred Ecuador Police Rebellion Becomes Law

By Cesar Muñoz Acebes

QUITO – A bill that spurred last week’s violent one-day uprising by disgruntled police and military personnel became law Monday after the leaders of the Ecuadorian legislature refused to revise the controversial overhaul of public employee pay.

The mutiny, described by officials as an attempted coup, ended only after government supporters and loyal soldiers routed the mutinous cops who were besieging President Rafael Correa inside a Quito hospital.

Ecuador remains under a state of emergency, but Security Minister Miguel Carvajal said he is prepared “in principle” to revoke the measure on Tuesday.

Extra security – including snipers on rooftops – was in evidence Monday morning when Correa took part in the ceremonial changing of the guard at Carondelet palace.

The leadership of the National Assembly rejected the idea of reconsidering the pay-overhaul measure opposed by police.

“Under coercion and force, it is not possible to consider any dialogue about anything,” International Relations Committee chairman Fernando Bustamante told Efe.

“Police have to submit to the law,” he said. “If we’re going to exempt someone from complying with the law because of their discontent, obviously there won’t be rule of law.”

Legislative leaders declined a request by opposition lawmakers for a special weekend session to review the controversial bill, allowing the legislation to automatically become law at midnight Sunday.

While the law eliminates various annual bonuses paid to police, soldiers and other civil servants once they achieve specified levels of seniority, the government points out that cops have seen their base pay doubled since Correa took office in 2007.

The National Assembly, where the president’s Movimiento Pais party has a majority, voted to exempt police and the military from the new salary arrangements, but Correa vetoed that article of the legislation.

An attempt to override the veto fell six votes short last Wednesday.

The next morning, police and some military units began what appeared to be coordinated actions such as shutting down the airports in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city.

Correa went to the main police barracks in the capital to address the disgruntled cops.

As he was trying to leave afterward, police attacked the president and his bodyguards with tear gas. Correa, who was walking with a cane after undergoing knee surgery, started choking from the gas and his escort rushed him into the police hospital next door.

The cops from the main barracks then surrounded the hospital, while rebellious police also occupied the National Assembly and staged disturbances in other Ecuadorian cities.

Loyal police officers and army troops managed to rescue Correa late Thursday night, but one soldier and a civilian supporter of the president were killed by gunfire from the police rebels.

Nationwide, eight people died and 274 others were wounded in incidents related to the mutiny.

Three police colonels are under investigation for their alleged role in the rebellion, as are several members of the security unit assigned to the National Assembly.

The assembly speaker, Fernando Cordero, accused elements of the congressional guard of allowing police rebels to occupy the building last Thursday. EFE

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