BRASILIA, Brazil – Ecuador's former president began his life in exile in Brazil on Sunday, ending a four-day drama that began when protesters accusing him of abuse of power drove him from office and forced him to take refuge in the Brazilian ambassador's residence.
A police vehicle whisked Lucio Gutierrez (search) out of the Quito residence through its back entrance before dawn Sunday to avoid protesters, and he arrived in Brazil's capital seven hours later on an air force jet, Brazilian military spokesman Vladomiro Fagundes said.
Gutierrez's wife and one of his two daughters accompanied him to Brazil (search), which granted asylum to the 48-year-old cashiered army colonel.
They were immediately flown out of Brasilia military base by helicopter and were headed to a military-run hotel, Fagundes said.
"They were rescued," he said. "The mission was a success."
Gutierrez, the third leader of this unstable, oil-rich Andean nation forced from office in eight years, did not talk to reporters as he walked the yards to the military helicopter in the Brasilia airport. He wore a blue suit, white shirt and no tie.
But in a letter requesting asylum released to reporters, Gutierrez wrote: "In light of the current situation in the Republic of Ecuador (search), I feel personally threatened and unable to guarantee my liberty and physical integrity, as well as of my wife's and of my daughters."
Gutierrez had been holed up in the ambassador's residence for four days awaiting permission from the new government to leave Ecuador, following Congress's decision to remove him from office amid massive anti-government protests. Lawmakers later named former Vice President Alfredo Palacio as Ecuador's new president.
The deposed leader's enemies say he should be tried for abuse of power, corruption and the violent repression of protests that prompted Wednesday's congressional vote.
His supporters contend he was removed from power illegally, and the Organization of American States has asked Ecuador's new government to explain how Congress justified its decision to remove him for "abandonment of the post" when he was still in the Government Palace issuing orders.
In Ecuador, a top ally of Gutierrez said the deposed leader was ousted illegally and will return to his homeland.
"He will once again be president," said close confidant and ex-Cabinet member Estuardo Penaherrera said. "He will be a candidate again and he will win."
Gutierrez took office in January 2003 as a populist, anti-corruption reformer, but soon angered many Ecuadoreans by adopting economic austerity measures. Many also were upset by growing accusations of nepotism and corruption in his inner circle.
He dissolved the Supreme Court a week ago in hopes of placating protesters who accused him of stacking the court in his favor, but the move backfired and set off even more massive protests.
His older daughter, 20-year-old Karina, decided to stay in Quito because she was attending military school, said Brig. Gen. Joseli Parente Camelo, who headed Brazil's 14-man mission to Ecuador.
Camelo said the mission was "very delicate and emotional," and that Gutierrez and his family seemed exhausted. Gutierrez's wife, Ximena Bohorquez Romero, several times thanked the Brazilian people, Camelo said.
Though there had been fears of violence, none was reported as Gutierrez left the Brazilian ambassador's residence. The deposed leader left through a back entrance before dawn in a police four-wheel-drive, police who were guarding the gate said.
Dressed in police uniforms, Gutierrez, his wife and daughter were taken to a nearby helicopter, and then flown to an airport near Quito, Camelo said, without elaborating. He said the runway lights at the airport had to be turned on only minutes before the plane arrived to ward off possible protesters.
"Everything was done very quickly," Camelo said.
The Brazilian government granted a two-year asylum to Gutierrez, and the country's Justice Ministry would say in the next few days what limitations the ousted leader would have while in Brazil, if any, ministry spokesman Francisco Marques said.
Brazil reportedly threatened to withdraw its ambassador, Sergio Florencio Sobrinho, after his car was mobbed Friday night by nearly 200 protesters who prevented him from leaving the compound.
The growing tension between Ecuador and Brazil came as the OAS decided to send a high-level diplomatic delegation to investigate whether Gutierrez's removal was constitutional.