Ecuador Calm After Police Unrest

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Al-Jazeera-English

Ecuador Calm After Police Unrest

President returns to work, but officials warn they might not have achieved "total victory" over the protesters.

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Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa (with microphone), addresses his supporters from the balcony of the government palace in Quito after the coup attempt. (Photograph: Pato Realpe/EPA)

Rafael Correa, Ecuador's president, has returned to work a day after
troops rescued him from a hospital where he had been trapped by police
officers protesting over plans to cut their benefits.

Ecuador's
capital, Quito, was peaceful on Friday after a day of unrest that
culminated in a gunfight outside the hospital, but Ricardo Patino, the
foreign minister, warned that the situation might not yet have been
completely dealt with.  

"We cannot claim total victory. We have overcome the situation for now, but we cannot relax," Patino told reporters.

"The coup attempt may have roots out there, we have to find them and pull them up."

Correa
has blamed Lucio Gutierrez, a former president who was himself
ousted during protests, for the uprising on Thursday, saying that it was
an attempt to force him from power.

Gutierrez denies any role in
the protests and many analysts have suggested that the officers were
unlikely to have been trying to topple Correa, but for several hours on
Thursday it was feared that the president could be removed from power as
three other presidents were in the decade before he came to power in
2007.

Violent uprising Correa was trapped
in the National Police Hospital in Quito after being teargassed as he
attempted to address protesting police officers at a barracks in the
city. 

He was holed up in the building for several hours as his
supporters clashed with the police outside and officers inside attempted
to persuade him to revoke a law which cut their bonus payments. The
unrest, which also saw airports closed and roads blocked, ended late on
Thursday after the military moved against the police.

Officials said on Friday that four people had died and nearly 200 others had been injured in the violence. 

Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar said the situation in the Ecuadorean
capital was stable but a state of emergency, which gives greater powers
to the military, remained in place.

"The current situation is quite calm. It seems that President Correa has the country in control again," she said.

Gustavo
Jalkh, the interior minister, said police forces had returned to work
on Friday after "an unfortunate, critical, chaotic" day.

Only 600
officers out of a force of about 40,000 took place in the violence,
according to Edwin Jarrin, the deputy interior minister.

The
chief of the police has resigned saying that he did not order the
aggression against the president but had been "disrespected" and
"mistreated" by his officers.

"A commander shown such lack of respect by his subordinates cannot stay in charge," Freddy Martinez said

A
civil service law passed on Wednesday by congress would end the
practice of giving soldiers and police medals and cash bonuses with each
promotion, as well as extend the intervals between promotions.

The law has angered police and soldiers who earn well under $1,000 a month.

A delegation of Latin American foreign ministers arrived in Quito on Friday to show their support for Correa.

"The bottom line is that this was an attack on democracy and
progressive governments in Latin America," Hector Timerman, the
Argentine foreign minister, said.

Correa, who has been in office since 2007, was re-elected last year
to a second term as president of the country of 14.5 million people.

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