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Ecuador's president announces referendum

Vote will strengthen country's justice system, says Rafael Correa

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Monday announced a referendum he said would strengthen the country's justice system and change the way judges are appointed.

But the opposition has charged that the proposed reforms to the Constitution are aimed at tightening the leftist leader's grip on power.

"There are 10 questions that basically have to do with constitutional reforms [...] including a possible restructuring of the judicial system, which we all know is in a crisis," Correa said at a news conference in Quito. Under the proposal, Correa said that judges would be appointed by a committee made up of independent figures and members of Congress, where his allies hold the majority.

"If this passes, it would mean that Correa could appoint anyone he wants to the bench," said Ramiro Crespo, a Quito banking analyst in an interview with Reuters.

The president said that petty crime is on the rise and citizens have complained that a lot of judges are corrupt.

Voters would also be asked whether bankers and private media owners should be prohibited from engaging in other businesses to "avoid conflict of interests" as well as approving bans on bullfighting and casinos.

Ecuador witnessed an apparent coup attempt last September following a police mutiny when officers revolted over paycuts. Correa was rescued after being held at a police station.

Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, last July in Caracas.
Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, last July in Caracas.REUTERS
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