Ecuadorean leaders this week denounced protesters' alleged plans for a coup, urging the country to remain calm as it entered its fourth week of demonstrations. President Rafael Correa announced Wednesday the government had "clear indications" a coup was coming and organized a pro-government event to take place Thursday afternoon outside the presidential palace, Telesur reported.
"They want violence to overthrow a government of immense national and international support," Correa tweeted, going on to urge people to attend a "joyful" counter-protest with music at 4 p.m. "They will not succeed."
Activists have been protesting for about a month over new bills that would raise taxes on inheritances and real estate, according to previous International Business Times reporting. Correa had said the bills would "redistribute wealth" and "democratize property" for a small number of people. Protesters argued they would do the opposite.
Correa temporarily withdrew the bills June 15 in an effort to placate Ecuadorians ahead of Pope Francis' visit to the country set for July 6-8. The demonstrations didn't stop -- they just started calling for Correa's resignation. Plans for protests Thursday included blocking airports, bridges and the presidential palace, interior minister Jose Serrano said in a press conference, La República reported Serrano said they wanted to seize power or at least cause the Pope to cancel his visit.
"They planned to use pointed sticks to break police shields, to throw balloons filled with paint for police to lose visibility, to pepper-spray police horses and dogs so they got scared," Serrano added.
Assemblyman Andres Paez fired back at the officials, saying it was "outrageous" to think they'd stage a coup, News24 reported. Tatamuez Messiah, leader of the labor union Unitary Workers Front, also rejected the notion. Instead, he said, Thursday's protests are "a prelude to what will be the national strike on people."