Ecuador military vows to support president
Ecuador's defense minister and the leaders of nation's armed forces on Wednesday rejected a call from a key opposition figure to turn against President Lucio Gutierrez.
Defense Minister Nelson Herrera was responding to Quito Mayor Paco Moncayo, a former head of the army, who on Tuesday asked the military not to recognize Gutierrez's government, which he called "corrupt and unconstitutional."
"We will not permit anarchy to overtake the nation," Herrera said. "The armed forces back the rule of law because that is what the Constitution demands."
He was accompanied by the commanders of the army, navy and air force, as well as the head of Ecuador's Joint Chiefs of Staff. None of the others commented.
Political tensions have been rising since the return Saturday of former President Abdala Bucaram to Ecuador and a ruling by the Supreme Court clearing him of corruption charges.
Gutierrez's opponents charge he cut a deal with Bucaram to stack the Supreme Court in his favor as payback for key votes Bucaram's political party provided last year blocking an impeachment drive against Gutierrez in Congress.
Gutierrez was elected president in November 2002 after campaigning as a populist, anti-corruption reformer. His left-leaning constituency soon fell apart after he instituted austerity measures, including cutting subsidies on food and cooking fuel, to satisfy lenders like the International Monetary Fund.
Gutierrez, a former army colonel, served as Bucaram's military attache and was jailed for leading a rebellion in 2000 that toppled former President Jamil Mahuad from power.