President Rafael Correa was taken to a hospital after being overcome by tear gas thrown by rebellious officers, local media reported.Police barricaded the airport and roads and chaos has ensued throughout the country. Soldiers had to storm the hospital where President Correa was being treated for exposure to tear gas following yesterday's police riots. Two police officers were killed in the fighting.
Correa later declared a state of emergency and said he was considering dissolving a deadlocked Congress. “It’s a coup attempt," he said in an interview with Radio Publica de Ecuador.
The rebellious officers fired tear gas and burned tires after taking over barracks in the capital Quito, Guayaquil and other cities. They also set up roadblocks that cut off highway access to the capital.
Schools shut down in Quito and many businesses closed due to the absence of police protection.
The striking police were angered by a law passed by Congress on Wednesday that would end the practice of giving members of Ecuador's military and police medals and bonuses with each promotion. It would also extend from five to seven years the usual period required for before a subsequent promotion.
Ecuador was under a state of siege Friday, with the military in charge of public order, after soldiers rescued President Rafael Correa from a hospital where he'd been surrounded by police who also roughed him up and tear-gassed him.The President has addressed the Ecuadorian people by excoriating the actions of the police:
Correa and his ministers called Thursday's revolt — in which insurgents also paralyzed the nation with airport shutdowns and highway blockades — an attempt to overthrow him and not just a simple insurrection over a new law that would cut benefits for public servants.
Two policemen were killed when Ecuador's army stormed the hospital, the Red Cross said.
He's vowing to go after those responsible for the rioting. The Guardian details the circumstances of Correa's hospitalization and rescue:
The rescue was the climax to a dramatic day in which a police revolt over austerity measures spiralled out of control, leaving airports and motorways blocked, borders sealed, the president assaulted and businesses looted.
The Ecuadorean police chief, Freddy Martinez, resigned this afternoon after failing to stop the rebellion, a spokesman for the force told Reuters.
The protests were triggered by a law passed by Congress on Wednesday that would end the practice of giving medals and bonuses with each promotion, part of Correa's effort to save costs and slim bureaucracy.
Ecuador is one of South America's most volatile countries, with a tradition of protests, but nobody expected to see scores of uniformed men overrunning the main airport of the capital, Quito, forcing its closure and the declaration of a state of emergency.
It was just the beginning. Hundreds of rank and file soldiers and police took over barracks in Quito, Guayaquil and other cities. They also set up roadblocks of burning tyres and occupied Congress, shouting "respect our rights!" and "long civil war!".
Smoke wafted over Quito and sporadic looting left several banks and supermarkets ransacked. A state TV channel showed police trying to enter its studio. The channel said the police shattered windows and tried to cut the power supply.
Correa, a 47-year-old economist with a firebrand style, went to a regimental barracks to try to negotiate with protesters but was surrounded, punched, doused with hot water and almost blinded with teargas.