<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español November 19, 2017 | Issue #26


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Ecuador: The Final Round

Part IV in a Series


By Luis A. Gómez - reporting from Ecuador

November 24, 2002

“I’m asking for a profound national dialogue between all sectors. I won’t take unilateral measures, we have to sit down and converse among the Indians, businessmen, workers, truck drivers, students, farmers, retirees, men and women, blacks, mestizos, honest bankers…”

- Lucio Gutiérrez, in his final campaign speech

Everything will be decided today in Ecuador. What matters now, kind readers, not is whether Lucio Gutiérrez wins or not. It’s already an almost irreversible fact that he will be the new president of Ecuador. But in the minds of many Ecuadorians there may be doubts still about for whom to vote (the government and the Right wing have done much to promote the casting of “blank ballots”) and, in some cases, even fear: In some corners of this country, as the indigenous Congresswoman Nina Pacari says, “votes are still decided with bullets.”

Just as the “blank ballots” can affect the uniting of political forces in the next government, the number of allied Congress members will be a determining factor in governing. “It’s not the same to win with 65 percent as it would be with 50 percent or less. And, well, the Pachakutik is already the first power in the National Congress, but it must widen the unity with the legislators elected by the alliance that supports Lucio Gutiérrez,” says Fernando Buendía, member of the Pachakutik Movement’s National Committee.

While this occurs, Narco News presents you with a brief profile of the adversary to defeat on this day: the businessman Álvaro Noboa. We’ll also give you a review of what the last days in this battle for democracy in América have been like…

More than $900 Million

At age 52, with a growing bald spot and a sharp voice, the businessman Álvaro Noboa has spent the last few days demonstrating that he has to be president… at least to scare the electorate. This work – from dirty war to the donation of cash to victims of an explosion in the city of Riobamba – has not borne ripe fruit so far… but it says a lot about the man who confronts Lucio Gutiérrez.

Educated in Europe and the United States, Noboa inherited the largest banana empire in Ecuador, one of the five most important economic sectors in the country. He owns more than one hundred businesses here, in Europe, the United States, in New Zealand and in other countries. The sum of his fortune is estimated to be a little more than $900 million U.S. dollars… in a country where the average monthly salary doesn’t surpass $150 dollars. Álvaro Noboa is the owner or part-owner of mines, media companies and other Ecuadorian businesses.

And in spite of all the money spent on his campaign and the enormous group of consultants and publicists he has contracted, the majority of the common people, in the streets, prefer not to vote for him for a simple reason: they have the impression that he’s quite the imbecile. In the hotel where your correspondent stays, one of the bellhops comments that he always sees Noboa on television, that “he’s damaged goods, I don’t think he would be able to govern this country.”

In the final week of the campaign, Noboa bought ads in the media with two different messages: In one he dedicated himself to ask for votes accompanied by his family, and in the other he attacked Gutiérrez. In fact, in a TV commercial he compared a possible government of the Colonel with that of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, making a fuss about the possible violence that could ensue (using images of the failed coup d’etat of last April in Caracas)… The result was, above all, to cause a diplomatic incident: the Venezuelan Ambassador, Carlos Santiago, has issued a formal protest, last Thursday, about this particular piece of propaganda.

Beyond this, yesterday the Supreme Electoral Court determined that, in open violation of the law, the propaganda spending by Noboa vastly exceeded the budget allowed (and, additionally, were broadcast more days than they should have been)... Lord Noboa spent almost a million-and-a-half dollars above the limit in trying to frighten the electorate. Along the same lines, Noboa demanded a public debate with Lucio Gutiérrez in recent days, in front of the media, but he did it by means of blackmail: fixing everything through a national TV chain of which he is one of the principal owners… Of course, Lucio rejected those conditions.

Lucio and His People

In a book titled “The Labyrinths of the Colonel,” that will appear in the next few days, the Authentic Journalist Kintto Lucas says: “The triumph of Lucio Gutiérrez in the first round is a new victory of the 21st of January, as Alejandro Moreano says… His victory will be one step more in a rapid ascent toward dream and a jump over this abyss doesn’t depend only on him, but also on all the sectors that seek a change for the country.”

And Lucas is quite right. In fact, in the discussions between the 16 work-groups, that daily plan the diverse issues of the Plan for Government, proposals by individuals as well as political, ethnic, union, or municipal government groups are received… There are two issues that are especially worth reviewing:

Three weeks ago, after the results of the first round were official, Álvaro Noboa declared to the media: “I respect Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez a lot, but we represent different ways of thinking. I’m a liberal and he’s a radical. In the second round you will have to choose between the free market and communism.” If this were the case, kind readers, the Wall Street analysts would not be as calm as they are. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, when Lucio won the first round “the price of world bonds for Ecuador for 2030, a measure of the country’s risks, fell by 13 percent.” However, after the already mentioned trip by Gutiérrez and his work-group to Washington and New York, this price rose by 26 percent. And although Lucio has said that the payment of interest rates for the foreign debt is impossible for Ecuador – “it’s not that we don’t want to pay, it’s that we can’t” – his promise to the IMF to work to comply with the agreements already made with the markets and international financial institutions have them at peace – for now.

Also, some have begun to analyze the role that the government of the United States is playing in this contest. Last Monday, the columnist Miguel Rivadeneira exposed some delicate points in the bilateral agenda between Ecuador and the Bush government: the situation of the Manta military base, the extreme poverty that plagues the continent, and, speaking about the possible victory by Lucio Gutiérrez, the United States asked for an effective cooperation in the fight against corruption: “Why doesn’t the U.S. contribute and send all the bankers, politicians and ex-corrupt authorities that are sought by Ecuadorian justice and live without worry in U.S. territory back to Ecuador? Why doesn’t it return the millions of dollars that they took?”

Yesterday, in a “dialogue” about the elections in Ecuador held in New York, the ex Ambassador of the United States in this country, Peter Romero, mentioned two key matters that, according to him, will affect the stability of the new government: “Maintain and respect the agreements regarding the Manta base and the commitment to Plan Colombia.”

As you will recall, in our previous report we informed that the U.S. Army uses the base in an extreme manner and that, for those reasons, the only benefit that Ecuador receives is going to be as involuntary ally of Bush in Colombia’s Civil War. This statement, made by an ex-U.S. government functionary (who now represents the mining industry), smells more like a threat…

Such is the panorama, kind readers. Today the final round in the fight to launch history anew, to start literally from zero in this country to construct democracy, begins. And although victory is almost assured, Lucio and his allies are going to have many difficult fights ahead… Stay tuned, because the final round has not yet ended.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America