UK ‘concerned’ at Ecuador chaos

By Ian Dunt

The Foreign Office says it is “very concerned” at events in Ecuador, as uncertainty continues paralyse the country in the wake of an attempted coup.

President Rafael Correa was rescued from a hospital late last night, after protesters and police officers surrounded the building.

The army, which crucially remained loyal, returned him to safety in the capital, Quito.

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne said: “We are very concerned about the ongoing unrest in Ecuador.

“The UK strongly urges all parties to refrain from violence and to respect the democratic, constitutional government of Ecuador. I call on all sides to restore order quickly and peacefully.”

The Foreign Office also issued guidance to any Britons in the country.

“Numerous demonstrations are taking place in favour and against the government across the country,” it said.

“British nationals are advised to remain indoors, either at home or in their current location, if safe to do so.

“Those with immediate travel plans may be forced to put them on hold until the situation improves and are advised to contact their airline.”

Ecuador is a famously unstable country, but its popular leftist president has ruled over a period of impressive clam since he took over in 2007.

President Correa won re-election easily last year and avoided being removed by anti-government protests, as has happened to the previous three incumbents.

Trouble began yesterday when President Correa, a US-trained economist who branded his country’s debt illegitimate and promptly defaulted on it, spoke to police protesting against austerity measures.

In a dramatic address at the barracks, the president tore at his shirt and said: “If you want to kill the president, here he is. Kill him, if you want to. Kill him if you are brave enough.”

Protestors soon fired tear gas, forcing the president to retreat to hospital, where a siege began.

After a dramatic late-night rescue by members of the armed forces, the president made an emotional speech to the hundreds of thousands of supporters who had launched counter-demonstrations during the night to back him during the evening.

“I give so much thanks to those heroes who accompanied me through this hard journey,” the Reuters news agency reported him saying.

“Despite the danger, being surrounded, ministers and politicians came, to die if necessary. With that bravery, with that loyalty, nothing can defeat us.”

Two people are thought to have died in the fighting. The commander of Ecuador’s police force has resigned.

A close ally of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, President Correa forms part of a resurgent wave of populist socialist leaders across Latin America.