Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Safety warning for Brits in Ecuador

Britons have been warned to stay indoors following street battles between police and soliders
A supporter of President Rafael Correa waves a picture of him as tyres burn in Quito, Ecuador (AP)

Britons in Ecuador have been told to stay indoors after gun battles between police and soldiers prompted a state of siege to be declared.

The South American country's president, Rafael Correa, had to be freed by armed forces from a hospital in the capital Quito where he had been trapped by police rebelling over benefit cuts.

The violence began earlier on Thursday when hundreds of police officers angry over a new civil service law plunged the oil-exporting South American country into chaos, shutting down airports and blocking roads in a nationwide strike.

Issuing updated travel advice for Ecuador, the UK's Foreign Office said: "Numerous demonstrations are taking place in favour and against the government across the country.

"British nationals are advised to remain indoors, either at home or in their current location, if safe to do so."

It added: "Those with immediate travel plans may be forced to put them on hold until the situation improves and are advised to contact their airline."

After being freed from the hospital by soldiers, Mr Correa, 47, told cheering supporters from the balcony of the Carondelet palace that the uprising was more than a simple police protest.

"There were lots of infiltrators, dressed as civilian and we know where they were from," he shouted. But he did not blame anyone specifically.

The president was trapped in the hospital for more than 12 hours after being treated for a tear-gassing that nearly asphyxiated him during a confrontation with hundreds of angry police officers who also shoved him and pelted him with water.

He thanked all his supporters who went to the hospital and "were ready to die to defend democracy".

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