MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is denouncing what he says is another “right-wing coup attempt” in Ecuador and is demanding that the U.S. government define clearly its position on the situation there.
“What has the government of the United States said? Listen to me Ambassador (Robert) Callahan. Listen to me carefully. What has your government said?” Ortega demanded in a live televised speech, flanked by top military and police officials.
“Now is the moment to define yourself,” Ortega continued. “Is the new administration of the United States in favor of coup d’états, or are you against coup d’états? (The U.S. government) says it is watching the situation (in Ecuador) with interest. But what is the interest? Are they interested to see if the coup culminates with the assassination of President Correa?”
A Thursday morning protest by police in Ecuador over changes to their job benefits turned into an outright rebellion against President Rafael Correa after a violent clash between the president and police in the capital of Quito.
In an outburst of machismo, Correa, who was hobbling around on a cane after undergoing a recent knee surgery, partially tore off his shirt and tie and challenged the protesting police officers by screaming, “If you want to kill the president. Here he is. Kill me! Kill me!”
Moments later, police attacked the president as he was attempting to leave. The police fired teargas at Correa, who was handed a gas mask by one of his supporters and taken to the nearby police hospital for treatment.
Once in the hospital, the situation became even more confusing. Correa’s cabinet members went before a crowd of pro-government supporters gathered outside the presidential palace and warned that a coup attempt was underway. Ecuador’s foreign minister called on Correa’s supporters to march on the hospital, where he said the president was being held prisoner by rebellious police officers and right-wing coup plotters.
As of this writing, a state of emergency had been declared in Ecuador, the international airport was closed and the Ecuadoran police were involved in violent clashes with pro-Correa supporters outside the hospital – a situation that Ortega called “the tip of the spear of a coup in Ecuador.”
Following the coup in Honduras last year, Ecuador could be the second member nation of the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) to experience a coup attempt in less than two years.
Ortega, an enthusiastic backer of ALBA, stressed that similar coup attempts will not occur in Nicaragua. Ortega said yesterday, “There isn’t even a minimal possibility of a coup.”
“Why?” Ortega continued, “because of the nature of our armed forces. The army and the police were born with the revolution and were formed by the revolution. They have been institutions that are loyal to the Constitution.”
Ortega also warned Nicaragua’s political opposition and certain members of the clergy – who he accused of representing the same right-wing interests behind the coup in Honduras and yesterday’s apparent coup attempt in Ecuador – to be careful what they wish for.
He said that the opposition in Nicaragua is calling for “the people to take to the streets against the government without taking into account that it’s the people who are in the government.”
Ortega added, “They are calling for the people to take to the streets. But be careful. Because the people could take to the streets. Of course they could. And we’ll be the first ones out there with the people.”
Read next Friday’s Nica Times for more on fallout in Nicaragua to the crisis in Ecuador