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Police Riot in Ecuador

ECUADOR / 1 NOV 2010 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Chief of Ecuador police, Felipe Martinez, resigned Friday after the dramatic protests which President Correa and his supporters described as a "coup attempt."

 Chief of Ecuador police, Felipe Martinez, resigned Friday after the dramatic protests which President Correa and his supporters described as a "coup attempt." Riots broke out after the Ecuadorian National Assembly passed a law on Wednesday that increased salaries and cut bonuses for police officers. But how is the law going to affect Ecuador’s police forces, and why were they unhappy enough to launch such strong demonstrations?

According to some analysis from the Miami Herald, it was not so much the content of these laws that provoked the police uprising, but rather the lack of “healthy debate” and discussion. That is, it appears Correa pushed the law through Congress without lobbying police to support the legislation. So what does the "Law of Public Service," as the legislation is known, actually do? It cuts some benefits, including Christmas gift baskets, and cuts bonuses awarded to officers for seniority or promotions. Police will now have to serve seven years, not five, in between rank promotions, and will no longer receive the cash bonuses ranging between $3,000 and $8,000, reports IPS.

Correa has argued that these material bonuses have now been added into police officers’ regular salaries, $792 a month, in contrast to the monthly salaries of $355 in place when he first took office. On one hand the law may be a well intentioned (but badly explained) attempt at the democratization of police salaries, but it is still not clear how the new law will better promote upward mobility within the police forces. Does the new law still encourage low-ranking officers to advance their careers, even to the highest ranks? It's not so much that financial incentives should be used to build a more effective police force, but with their cash bonuses gone, rank-and-file officers still need to see a path for promotion (perhaps with increased opportunities for training or education while rising in the ranks). It's not clear that the new law does anything to address this.

Meanwhile Correa has accused at least two political rivals of having orchestrated Thursday's protests, and the Prosecutor General's Office is now investigating such allegations, reports El Comercio. It does not look as though the objective of the police-led protests was to oust Correa from power, and so far it looks like the president's popularity is now on the rise. Gallup reports that even before Thursday's "golpe," more people approved of Correo's performance than those who expressed confidence in police forces.

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