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Ecuador's leader rejects ruling

March 29, 2007|From Times Wire Services

QUITO, ECUADOR — President Rafael Correa on Wednesday rejected as "illegitimate" a judge's ruling reinstating 57 legislators dismissed by an electoral court in a dispute over a referendum to revamp Ecuador's constitution.

The ruling threw the National Congress into confusion and fueled tensions between the opposition and Correa, a leftist who was elected in November on a promise that he would curb the influence of traditional political parties.

The electoral tribunal fired the 57 members of the 100-seat unicameral Congress this month after the lawmakers signed a petition to start impeachment proceedings against the four tribunal judges who approved the referendum.

The lawmakers said they were fired illegally, but they were replaced anyway, giving Correa a slim majority in Congress.

A judge in coastal Guayas province Tuesday accepted an appeal by the lawmakers and reversed their dismissal.

Later, the electoral court fired the Guayas judge, saying he was not competent to rule on the lawmakers, Magistrate Hernan Rivadeneira said.

A constitutional court could make a final decision this week on the dispute.

Rallying 2,000 supporters, local Indians and union workers waving flags outside the presidential palace, Correa assailed lawmakers, whom many Ecuadoreans blame for a decade of instability.

"No matter what they do, these deputies and their corrupt judges have already been dismissed by the law, by the constitution and above all by the people who want no more of these shameless cads," Correa said from the palace balcony.

Ecuadoreans are to go to the polls in April to decide whether to convene a citizens assembly to draft the rewrites to the constitution.

Correa's opponents fear the U.S.-trained economist will use the assembly to weaken the legislature and bolster presidential powers, as his leftist ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did after his election.

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