Protests Spreading Against Gutiérrez in Ecuador

Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutiérrez, who has so far endured six days of growing protests against his government, went on Colombia’s influential Caracol Radio yesterday to defend his legitimacy, saying:

“I was elected with 59 percent of the vote, three million votes, not by the 3,000 or 5,000 who shout ‘out with Lucio,’ who are sponsored by a political party.”

Lucio’s denial about the seriousness of a crisis and the scale of the opposition is not a good sign, and hopefully does not mean that he anticipates having to justify repression or human rights violations. Radio La Luna, heroically broadcasting nonstop updates on the demonstrations and the sentiments of the people in the streets, has asked listeners to report any human rights violations. The situation is  unclear but voices have come on the air reporting unjustified mass arrests at the hands of the military. Contrary to Lucio’s claims about the number of his opponents, and of their being confined to a hard core in the city of Quito, the protests have apparently spread to the coast, especially to Guayaquil. In that giant port city, the mayor has joined the protests and is encouraging residents to come out against the president. A new poll carried out in the country’s two top cities shows eighty percent of respondents saying that Gutiérrez should resign.

What all this means for the future of Ecuador is very hard to say. Gutiérrez came to power as a protest candidate, on a platform that many voters understood to be one of combating the corrupt oligarchy and economic subservience to the U.S. and foreign financial institutions. His betrayals on these platforms and undemocratic political maneuvers have generated much of the discontent with his rule, but many opposition leaders are members of the same political class that has bled Ecuador dry for years. For his part, Luis Marcas, president of the huge CONAIE indigenous federation, wrote the following in a communiqué three days ago:

The clash of the two factions of the oligarchy in mortal combat opens a historic space for proposals and popular resistance born in the streets and summed up in the decision to say “all of them out” (to the entire political class). The CONAIE asks the citizens of Quito and the people of Ecuador that have risen up in a legitimate exercise of popular sovereignty, NOT to be used again by the partisan mafias that fight for control of the courts and tribunals of the country.

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About Dan Feder

I was a member of the Narco News team in various capacities, from webmaster to Editor-in-Chief, from 2002-2008. Since 2006 I have also been a member of the International Peace Observatory, which performs human rights accompaniment for Colombian campesino organizations in conflict zones. I am now living in Boston and working as a website developer for DigitalAid, Inc.