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Ecuador Leaders Offer To Resign

May 9, 2000

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ Some of Ecuador’s top military commanders have offered to resign, four months after the high command refused to put down an abortive rebellion that toppled the president, officials said Tuesday.

Gen. Telmo Sandoval, head of the joint chiefs of staff, Vice Adm. Enrique Monteverde, head of the navy, and air force Gen. Ricardo Irgoyen presented their resignations to President Gustavo Noboa on Monday, a government news release said without providing further details.

It was not clear if Noboa had accepted the resignations. He assumed the reigns of government after former President Jamil Mahuad was ousted by the military-backed rebellion in January.

The news came as Congress started debate on Noboa’s request to offer amnesty to military officers involved in the aborted coup. Some political parties, including the influential Social Christians, oppose a general amnesty, but Ecuador’s powerful Indian movement has demanded that its allies in the military be cleared of all charges.

The coup began Jan. 21, when hundreds of Indian protesters backed by a cadre of young army officers occupied the empty Congress building and proclaimed a ``Parliament of the People.″ The military high command refused to quell the insurrection and forced Mahuad from power to avoid ``a social explosion.″

Former armed forces chief Gen. Carlos Mendoza, who had joined the junta, turned power over to Noboa, Mahuad’s vice president, under pressure from the U.S. State Department and at least 20 regional commanders who opposed the overthrow of civilian rule. Mendoza, who resigned his post, said later that he agreed to join the coup as a stall tactic until democratic order could be restored.

Ecuador’s high military tribunal is considering whether to pursue charges against Mendoza and dozens of other officers for possible court-martials. Military tribunals are trying 17 military officers, most of them colonels, for their part in Mahuad’s unconstitutional ouster.

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