Ousted Ecuadorean leader announces his return home

14 October 2005

Former Ecuadorean President Lucio Gutierrez, who was ousted by Congress in April and is wanted by the law in Ecuador, said today that he would return home to try to regain power.

Renouncing the political asylum granted to him by Colombia, he said he would fly to Ecuador, “to take the legal and constitutional actions” needed to retake power from his successor, Alfredo Palacio, who he described as a usurper.

The government played down Gutierrez’s statement and said that if he touches ground in Ecuador he would be arrested for endangering national security.
His presence could destabilise the political situation of a country that has seen several protests, both against Palacio and the former president this year. Three presidents have been deposed since 1997
Indeed Gutierrez, who was elected in 2002, was sharply blamed for abandoning left-wing policies in favour of fiscal austerity and a close relationship with the United States. He came to political prominence when, as an army colonel, he led a coup attempt in 2000
Palacio had been Gutierrez’s Vice President. After Congress ousted Gutierrez, Palacio took power. He has steered Ecuador away from US-friendly policies and towards the left. Although he is still struggling to enact political reforms – and had to bow to public pressure during recent oil strikes – he has boosted social spending and dismantled a fund set aside to guarantee debt payments.

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