Ecuador President dissolves apex court

QUITO (ECUADOR): Facing growing street protests demanding his ouster, the Ecuador President, Lucio Gutierrez, declared a state of emergency in the capital and dissolved the Supreme Court in an effort to resolve an escalating political crisis. The state of emergency placed the military in charge of maintaining public order. Mr. Gutierrez, with the military high command standing behind him, announced in a televised address to the nation on Friday night that under the authority provided by the Constitution, he was dismissing ``the judges of the current Supreme Court designated by Congress'' in December. ``The measure ... was taken because Congress until now has not resolved the matter of the current Supreme Court, which is generating national commotion and especially in the city of Quito... which rejects the operation of the Supreme Court.'' A state of emergency suspends individual rights, including the right to free expression and public assembly. The Government noted in a news release that previous Governments have made use of states of emergencies frequently. It gave as an example President Sixto Duran-Ballen's 1992-1996 administration, which declared states of emergencies on 12 occasions. Quito residents did not heed the restriction on public assembly, and within two hours of the presidential announcement, thousands of people poured into the streets. Mr. Gutierrez's political foes condemned his action. — AP

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