Ecuador's military, which said it would not intervene, called
for a quick solution to the political crisis created after
Congress voted Thursday night to remove President Abdala
Bucaram from office for "mental incapacity."
Bucaram, who refers to himself as "El Loco," or "The Crazy
One" because of his unconventional behavior on the campaign
trail and in office, refused to recognize the vote.
swore in its leader
, Fabian Alarcon, to replace him
as interim president as Bucaram vowed defiantly to serve out
his term. Vice President Rosalia Arteaga also issued a
decree declaring her own right to the presidency.
All three "presidents" were in their offices Friday
surrounded by their staff and supporters.
Military on the sidelines, for now
Ecuador's military leaders, including Armed Forces Chief of
Staff Paco Moncayo, issued a statement calling on the three
claimants to power to "initiate a dialogue to find a
solution" to the crisis.
Moncayo said the military was "absolutely apolitical" and
would not seek to fill the power vacuum. The military, which
ruled Ecuador for seven years until 1970, could serve as a
mediator to end political infighting, military leaders said
in a statement.
"A solution cannot be awaited for too long," the statement
said, leading to speculation about a military coup.
Ecuador's Constitution is extremely vague on who should
replace a sitting president and it was not immediately clear
if Bucaram, or anyone else could mount a serious legal
challenge to Alarcon's appointment as acting president until
the end of Bucaram's term -- August 1998.
The standoff led to confrontation on Thursday night as army
troops clashed with thousands of pro-Alarcon demonstrators
who ringed the presidential palace demanding Bucaram leave
1M/29 sec. QuickTime movie
Troops used tear gas and fired a few volleys of rifle shots
into the air to disperse the demonstrators.
Arteaga, who is at odds with both Bucaram and Alarcon,
insists Bucaram's ouster was unconstitutional and that only
she could take over the presidency.
Populist turns unpopular
Bucaram took office six months ago, promising to be the
president of Ecuador's vast army of poor.
But his ouster by Congress came after the country was shut
down by a massive nationwide strike on Wednesday and Thursday
to protest the severe belt-tightening measures his
government clamped on Ecuador in early January.
The measures helped drive Bucaram's approval rating down
almost as quickly as the cost of living shot up. They
included electricity and gas rate hikes totaling more than
200 percent and a 60 percent rise in bus fares.
Reuters contributed to this report.