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Ecuadorans Defy Ban on Protests to Demand Leader Quit

By Monte Hayes
Associated Press
Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page A21

QUITO, Ecuador, April 17 -- Ecuador's president called off a state of emergency in the capital on Saturday -- less than 24 hours after imposing it -- as thousands of Ecuadorans defied his ban on demonstrations and demanded his resignation.

Speaking on national television, President Lucio Gutierrez said he was annulling the decree suspending civil liberties because he had "obtained the principal objective, which is the dismissal of the Supreme Court."

Ecuadorans in Quito protest against the president, who dissolved the high court and called a state of emergency. The sign demands his resignation. (Henry Lapo -- Reuters)

In Quito, the capital, residents took to the streets by the thousands, honking horns across the city and demanding the president's resignation.

The military, which under the state of emergency was charged with maintaining public order, was not visible during the peaceful demonstration. Shouts of "Lucio Out!" and "Democracy yes, dictatorship, no!" rang out.

"We're not to going to pay any attention. Let him take his emergency decree and go to another country," said Teresa Arteaga, one of the protesters.

Gutierrez imposed the emergency after three days of street marches demanding his resignation. He also dissolved the Supreme Court, saying the unpopular judges were the cause of the protests in Quito. The judges were appointed by his congressional allies in December in a process widely viewed as unconstitutional.

"The president has gone crazy. He doesn't even want us to protest. Declaring a state of emergency is incredible," Roberto Freire, a 40-year-old engineer, said as he shopped at an open-air market.

In his Friday night address, Gutierrez said he was using the powers granted him by the constitution to dismiss the justices. He said opposition to their appointments was causing the protests.

"The measure . . . was taken because Congress until now has not resolved the matter of the current Supreme Court, which is generating national commotion," he said.

The U.S. Embassy said Saturday that it was in touch with Gutierrez's government and had "exhorted" his administration "to show moderation and full respect for the civil rights of all citizens."

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