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Lawmakers in Ecuador Vote to Oust President

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Congress voted Thursday to remove President Abdala Bucaram for “mental incapacity,” exasperated by a six-month stint in office in which the president sang and pulled political stunts while Ecuador fell into economic crisis.

Congress voted 44-34 to oust Bucaram, with two Congress members abstaining. Bucaram, a showman who cheerfully referred to himself as “El Loco,” called the vote on his mental competence a “coup by Congress” and said he would not recognize it.

Early today, army troops clashed with thousands of demonstrators who ringed the presidential palace demanding Bucaram leave office immediately.

Troops used tear gas and fired a few volleys of rifle fire into the air to disperse the demonstrators, who were angered by Bucaram’s defiant pledge to ignore what he termed Congress’ “act of barbarity.”

In a statement issued to the military high command, read on national television by his press secretary, a defiant Bucaram said he remained the country’s only democratically elected president.

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The statement said Bucaram “had no intention of abandoning the presidential palace.”

Bucaram had warned earlier Thursday that he would use “all the powers available to protect the legitimacy of the popular will and national judicial order.”

Congress named its leader, Fabian Alarcon, as interim president pending new presidential elections within a year.

Minutes after the vote, caravans of cars honking horns roared down the main avenues of Quito, celebrating the vote to dismiss Bucaram.

Heinz Moeller, a member of the opposition Social Christian Party, said it was the security forces’ responsibility to carry out the congressional decision if Bucaram refused to step down.

The vote came on the heels of a nationwide strike Wednesday in which up to 2 million people marched through the streets of this South American country demanding the ouster of a leader they call corrupt and incompetent.

Bucaram took office in August after a campaign that included an outlandish road show featuring him as singer, dancer and comedian.


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