The day after in Ecuador

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Audio Transcript:

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. The president of Ecuador is not in a forgiving mood. Rafael Correa is vowing to punish those who were behind a police rebellion yesterday.


WERMAN: Correa says all plotters who are identified will suffer the consequences. Correa was roughed up by the protesters, and had to be rescued by a special military operation. Thomas Ciuffardi is a journalist with the Ecuadoran TV station Ecuavisa. He says Ecuadorans are still trying to sort out what sparked the unrest.

THOMAS CIUFFARDI: The citizens are questioning what happened yesterday. We are trying to analyze it because the hangover we are feeling right now about the violent events that happened yesterday.

WERMAN: If Ecuadorans are trying to figure out what happened yesterday, we certainly in the United States are really confused. How did all this start?

CIUFFARDI: It started like a strike. A simple strike from a couple of hundred of policeman. They were just complaining about some cuts of a law that's been passed to congress. But it seemed that everything got out of their hands and I guess there's a little bit of responsibility with the president in this because he went to the place where the protests were taking place. So in a way he exposed himself to this. In the last decade we have seen three coups and that previous days to these coups you can feel in the air that something was going to happen, that there was a crisis, people going to the streets complaining. But yesterday was the absolute opposite. Nobody was thinking of an attempt of a coup. I still question myself, if it was an attempt of a coup, but after the events you have to answer and say well, if it was not, why did all this happen?

WERMAN: Tell us more about President Correa. I mean we know he's an economist, educated in Europe and the US, what else do we know about him and how well he's liked by the Ecuadoran public.

CIUFFARDI: Well, he's been a very charismatic leader. Some opposers say that he's a bit of a dictator, but numbers say he has a lot of popular support and he is making radical changes in the country. Changes that many, many people agree that they would need to be done. Maybe not in the way that Correa is doing, but they were necessary changes.

WERMAN: President Correa's also an ally and friend of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Does that matter to the Ecuadoran public and the Ecuadoran police and was there any indication of what President Chavez was prepared to do if he ally, Mr. Correa, was indeed in danger?

CIUFFARDI: Well, Correa is an ally of Chavez. He's an ally of Pinera in Chile or an ally of Kirchner in Argentina. This image of Chavez and Correa, it's something that's been sold outside a lot. And I could say that the public can differentiate on the influence that Chavez has in Ecuador and what Correa's doing by his own decision. Of course, there is a fear of interference from Chavez, but I can't believe that what happened yesterday has something to do with that. Correa has shown that he's making his own path as well. Not everyone agreed, but it's not like he's following Chavez as some kind of sheep or something like that.

WERMAN: Considering this is the president of Ecuador who is involved in this situation, the scenes are pretty dramatic. I mean he was essentially kidnapped, held against his will, tear gassed. One account says he tried using a gas mask which was taken away from him by one of his police captors. Has Ecuador ever witnesses any of their presidents in such a situation before?

CIUFFARDI: No, not like this. We have seen three coups in the last ten years, some of them dramatic as well. But looking at the president so close to a violent situation, this is the first time that we see something like this in modern times.

WERMAN: Thomas Ciuffardi, a journalist with Ecuadoran TV station Ecuavisa, thanks very much for speaking with us.

CIUFFARDI: Okay, thank you.