- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2005

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador’s president called off a state of emergency in the capital yesterday — less than 24 hours after imposing it — as thousands of Ecuadoreans defied his ban on demonstrations and demanded his resignation.

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

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

The military, which under the state of emergency was charged with maintaining public order, was not evident during the peaceful demonstration, which was punctuated by shouts of “Lucio Out” and “Democracy yes, dictatorship no.”

Mr. Gutierrez — a cashiered army colonel elected in 2002 — 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.

In his Friday-night address, Mr. 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 yesterday it was in touch with Mr. Gutierrez’s government and had “exhorted” his administration “to show moderation and full respect for the civil rights of all citizens.”

The statement urged Ecuadoreans to abstain from violence and called on “the government and opposition to put aside party interests and unite in an open and respectful dialogue to find a solution that will result in an independent judicial system.”

Street protests began Wednesday in response to an impromptu suggestion by a local radio station that residents of Quito form a nocturnal pot-banging caravan. They increased in numbers until at least 10,000 people — banging pots and sticks and shouting “Get out, Lucio” — were marching in the streets as Mr. Gutierrez made his announcement Friday.

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