QUITO, April 24 Hundreds of Ecuadorean police
carrying riot shields encircled Congress on Tuesday after the
constitutional court reinstated 50 opposition lawmakers and
rekindled the country's political crisis.
Left-wing President Rafael Correa condemned the court's
ruling on Monday as illegal and a "shameless deal". Correa is
striving to wrest power from the Congress and traditional
political elites many blame for Ecuador's instability.
Ecuadoreans overwhelmingly supported a government-backed
referendum last week to set up a special assembly to rewrite
the constitution and curb the sway of traditional political
elites over the judiciary and other institutions.
The 50 lawmakers reinstated on Monday had been among 57
fired last month by an electoral court, which said they
violated election law by trying to block the referendum.
Congress, now controlled by pro-Correa legislators who
replaced the fired lawmakers, could strike back on Tuesday and
try to vote to force out the constitutional court members, some
congressional aides said.
The reinstated legislators welcomed the ruling, but said
they were debating whether to try to enter Congress and reclaim
their seats. In March, they scuffled with police and forced
their way into the legislature to protest their dismissal.
"We should be let back into Congress, but we fear for our
safety," said Gloria Gallardo, one of the fired lawmakers. "We
will analyze the position of the president and the election
court before making any decision."
Hundreds of protesters from a leftist party that supports
Correa briefly stormed the constitutional court on Monday to
demand judges reverse the ruling. Judges were escorted out by
police as a crowd pelted them with fruits and vegetables.
Correa, an economist elected in November, is popular for
his calls for a broad political overhaul in a country where
instability has ousted three presidents in a decade. But
critics fear he wants to bolster his presidential powers.