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Ecuador tribunal warns President
by Gonzalo Solano

The Associated Press    Translate This Article
10 March 2007

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) - Ecuador's political crisis deepened Friday as the Constitutional Tribunal warned President Rafael Correa that he would be acting illegally if he ignores its upcoming ruling on the constitutionality of a national referendum.

Correa said Thursday night that he would not respect any ruling that opposed the referendum on whether to rewrite the country's constitution—one of several disputes that have set Ecuador's courts, Congress and president at one another's throats.

Correa supports the referendum and the creation of a special assembly to rewrite the constitution to limit the power of a political class he blames for Ecuador's problems of corruption and political instability. Correa is the country's eighth president in 10 years.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal this week fired 57 congressmen it accused of interfering with the referendum, which the lawmakers have called unconstitutional. The congressmen's interference consisted of calling for the impeachment of a majority of members of the Electoral Tribunal.

The separate Constitutional Tribunal is reviewing the measure's legality, but Correa said the court has no authority in the matter.

The court's president, Santiago Velasquez, warned Friday: ``It is a crime when a citizen disregards a ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal.''

Congress, which Correa has called ``a sewer of corruption,'' approved the April 15 referendum last month, but stipulated that the 130-member assembly would not have the power to dismiss lawmakers and other officials elected in last year's elections.

But Correa disregarded the restrictions imposed by Congress, and the Electoral Tribunal approved his request that the assembly have unlimited powers to dismiss any elected official.

The seven-member electoral tribunal voted to oust the 57 congressmen after they signed a petition to start impeachment proceedings against the four court members who voted for Correa's version of the referendum.

Correa, 43, a U.S.-educated economist who took office Jan. 15, says says he wants to bring socialism to Ecuador. He ran as a political outsider and earned support from Ecuadoreans fed up with the political establishment.

A joint editorial published Friday on the front page of Ecuador's 10 most important newspapers criticized Correa for his confrontational style and urged him to respect ``legal norms, seek national unity and not to arbitrarily interpret the constitution ... and especially not instigate division and clashes among Ecuadoreans.''

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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