South American leaders condemn attempted coup, kidnapping in Ecuador

(CNN) — A group of South American leaders Friday condemned an “attempted coup” in Ecuador and praised troops for rescuing the country’s president in a shootout with police.

In a statement issued after an emergency meeting in Argentina, the group of presidents and top officials pledged to send their foreign ministers to Ecuador later Friday to show support for President Rafael Correa, whom police allegedly kidnapped Thursday in an attempt to force him to revoke a new law.

Hours after the rescue, Correa repeated his claim that compensation issues were merely a pretext for police to kidnap him and try to overthrow his government.

“It was an attempt and a perfectly coordinated conspiracy,” he said late Thursday.

Two people died in clashes between police and the military after hundreds of troops arrived at a hospital outside the country’s capital to rescue Correa on Thursday night, Ecuador’s Red Cross reported. At least 88 people were injured in unrest throughout the country.

The violent standoff between police and troops lasted for nearly an hour, said Freddy Paredes, a reporter for CNN affiliate Teleamazonas who watched the shootout from a hospital room.

Correa, wearing a military helmet and a gas mask, escaped in a wheelchair as gunfire rang out, he said.

“The police are very fearful, because the president has announced that there will be no forgiveness nor forgetting for the police that were insubordinate,” Paredes said

Correa said late Thursday that those responsible would be held accountable.

“It has been a very sad day. I send a warm embrace to those who were injured. I pray to God that nobody dies. Because of what happened, we now need to purge our National Police,” he said.

The disturbances occurred as Correa threatened to dissolve the National Assembly over a dispute about several laws, including public service and education.

Violence erupted early Thursday when police officers took to the streets, claiming a new law would take away their bonuses and reduce their compensation.

Government officials tried to quell the rebellion, insisting that the security forces had been misinformed and warning that the nation’s democracy was in danger.

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