Ecuador's Correa asserts control as police chief quits
By Hugh Bronstein and Alexandra Valencia
QUITO (Reuters) - President Rafael Correa reasserted control over Ecuador on Friday and his disgraced police chief resigned after officers' protests against spending cuts rattled the left-wing leader, who accused foes of a coup attempt.
Police commander Freddy Martinez took responsibility for a revolt by his officers on Thursday, when Correa was physically attacked and trapped in a hospital for several hours before troops rescued him in a blaze of gunfire.
"A commander shown such lack of respect by his subordinates cannot stay in charge," Martinez said.
Three presidents were ousted by popular protests in the decade before Correa took office in 2007 and for a period on Thursday, it appeared that Correa might be facing a serious challenge to his rule.
The fiery 47-year-old leader was contemptuous of the rebel police officers, who were protesting against proposed cuts to their bonuses, when he addressed supporters shortly after his rescue by loyal troops.
"For such a stupid thing like that, to damage the fatherland so much, history will judge them," he shouted.
State media said Correa's vehicle was hit by bullets as soldiers took him out of the hospital on Thursday night. "They wanted to kill President Correa," the Andes state news agency said, adding that the bullet-proof vehicle was hit four times.
Correa is expected to purge rebel officers from police ranks and he could also choose to dissolve Congress and rule by decree or call elections to try and solidify his power, although he might prefer to first let things cool down. Continued...