Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos issued a statement of support for Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa following what Correa called a “coup attempt.”
Protests broke out following a motion passed Wednesday by the Ecuadorean Congress that would restrict bonuses and salary increases for public servants, according to the BBC. The country’s airport was shut down after 300 air force personnel and soldiers took control of the runway, and a state of emergency has been declared. There are reports of looting, and many businesses and schools are closed.
Santos said he hopes a peaceful solution will be reached quickly in the neighboring country, and that order will be restored. The Colombian leader announced that he had attempted to reach his Ecuadorean by phone to express his support for the president, “who was elected democratically by the people of Ecuador.”
Correa declared, in a speech to protesting soldiers in Quito, “If you want to kill the president, here he is. Kill him, if you want to. Kill him if you are brave enough.”
Shortly after this speech Correa had to flee the area wearing a gas mask after tear gas was thrown at him. He was taken to the police hospital, and has announced that he will return to the presidential palace as soon as it is safe.
Colombia and Ecuador have had a strained relationship in recent years, since Colombia carried out a bombing raid on a FARC camp in Ecuadorean territory in March 2008. An Ecuadorean court issued an arrest warrant against Juan Manuel Santos before he won the presidency for his role as defense minister at the time of the attack, but the warrant was revoked after he took power in August.
Santos has made moves to improve ties with Quito, handing over computer files seized from the raided FARC camp that belonged to rebel leader “Raul Reyes.” Ecuador had for a long time demanded access to the files, as they allegedly contained evidence of Ecuadorean collaboration with the FARC.