QUITO: Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa returned to the presidential palace after being rescued from the hospital where he had holed up amid an armed confrontation between rebel police and loyal government troops, officials said.
Loyal government troops hustled Correa out of the National Police Hospital building, which had been surrounded by rebel police angered by a law that cut their pay bonuses.
“We got him out, we got him out,” Interior Vice Minister Edwin Jarrin told AFP.
The president had been forced to take refuge in the hospital earlier when a speech he made to the rebel police officers turned violent, with a tear gas cannister exploding next to him.
Gunfire was heard as armed groups clashed around the hospital.
Correa said Friday rebel police who had him surrounded in the police hospital wanted to kill him, and that he was saved thanks to the effectiveness of loyalist forces.
Correa extended a special thanks to a police special operations group that remained loyal and protected the National Police Hospital.
“If not for them, this horde of savages that wanted to kill, that wanted blood, would have entered the hospital to look for the president and I probably wouldn’t have been telling you this because I would have passed on to a better life,” Correa said.
The commander of Ecuador’s police force resigned in the wake of the police rebellion, a police spokesman said Friday.
General Freddy Martinez “has just presented his resignation,” said the spokesman, who spoke on condition that he not be named.
A Red Cross spokesman said the operation that rescued Correa late Thursday left two dead and 37 injured.
“Two police died after being taken to the hospital,” said Fernando Gandarillas, the Red Cross spokesman.
He added that 37 people were wounded in exchanges of gunfire between forces loyal to the government and police.
Earlier, the Red Cross had reported that at least 50 people were injured in clashes between police and Correa supporters who converged on the hospital.
Correa, a leftist ally of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, earlier denounced what he called a “coup attempt” orchestrated by the opposition and some members of the military and police.