BOGOTA, Colombia – Ousted Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez (search) said Thursday he was renouncing his asylum in Colombia and would return to his own country — where he faces arrest — and attempt to regain power.
"I will use all legal and constitutional means to retake power," Gutierrez told a news conference in a Bogota hotel.
Ecuadorian Interior Minister Galo Chiriboga warned that if Gutierrez returns, he "must submit to the law." In a radio interview in Ecuador's capital of Quito, Chiriboga noted that a judge has ordered Gutierrez's arrest.
Gutierrez took office in January 2003 as a populist, anti-corruption reformer in Ecuador (search) but lawmakers removed him from office in April amid protests fueled by allegations that he meddled with the courts in a move to amass power. Gutierrez's popularity suffered after he instituted austerity measures, including cuts in food subsidies and cooking fuel, to satisfy international lenders.
Gutierrez said President Alfredo Palacio, his former vice president who was sworn in by Ecuadorian lawmakers, was "usurping power."
"I renounce [asylum] for political, civic and patriotic reasons to return immediately to Ecuador and retake power," Gutierrez, dressed in a charcoal gray suit and yellow tie, said at the press conference in a small upscale hotel.
He insisted he was a victim of a coup and that he was still president of Ecuador. But an Ecuadorian judge in July ordered that Gutierrez be arrested as a threat to national security.
"What the de facto government does is not my call," Gutierrez told journalists. "I cannot be held accountable for what happens when I step on Ecuadorian soil."
Colombia on Oct. 4 granted Gutierrez political asylum (search) (search). He came to Bogota on Sept. 21 from the Peruvian capital of Lima, where he had been living in exile.
Gutierrez said he would go to Colombian authorities to formally relinquish his asylum. An aide said Gutierrez planned to fly to Ecuador on Friday.
Asked what specifically he would do to regain power by legal means, Gutierrez was vague.
"I plan to show there was a coup and that the president [Palacio] is usurping power," he said.