<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
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A Fistful of Dollars

Ecuador’s Gutiérrez, Washington’s new puppet, splits with the Pachakutik Movement


By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief

August 17, 2003

First of all, we must expose his cowardice.

The President of Ecuador, Lucio Gutiérrez, did not even show his face on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 6. It was his Secretary of Communication who had to publicly announce the split with the Pachakutik-New Nation Movement. That day, Gutiérrez had to rely on one of his functionaries to face the press, and to face the nation.

At a brief press conference, Marcelo Cevallos, the official government spokesman, said: “The president made this descision against Pachakutik’s attitude of not acting according to our alliance.” So the party with the most votes in the November 2002 Ecuadorian elections, the principal popular political organization, was kicked out of the government it helped to create for “not acting according to the alliance.”

The president’s pretext for breaking the alliance was that the Pachakutik Movement’s congressional delegation had voted against (or at least didn’t support) the government’s legislative initiatives. But the conflict has a more complicated history…

Pachakutik’s Reasons

One of the measures Gutiérrez proposed to the National Congress was the creation of a 44-hour workweek, thus increasing the previous official standard of five 8-hour workdays. Pachakutik’s representatives not only opposed this measure, but also condemned it as “neoliberal.” Gutiérrez was able to pass this and other similar measures because of the Christian Social Party, whose representatives supported every one of the president’s proposals. It was this alliance with a group that has traditionally defended the interests of the Ecuadorian oligarchy, more than the neoliberal legislation itself, that irritated Pachikutik’s delegation.


Lucio Gutiérrez visits George W. Bush
Official White House Photo
Since assuming the presidency, Lucio Gutiérrez done nothing concrete for the country’s indigenous and peasant farmer populations – his electoral base of support – other than to give them some shovels, some axes and some condoms. His campaign promises of agricultural development, education and tourism have been forgotten. He has set aside the agricultural agenda handed to him by the Ecuadorian Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE, in its Spanish initials) in the days before his election, which he promised to implement once head of State.

So on August 6, all of Pachakutik’s officials had their letters of resignation ready. Once Gutiérrez’s decision to break the coalition was known, Leonidas Iza, representative of CONAIE and Pachakutik, read a public communiqué, stating “The Government has betrayed its popular mandate – responding instead to the interests of the International Monetary Fund – in a Letter of Intent expressing the desire to privatize the oil, telephone and electric companies.”

Guilberto Talahua, CONAIE’s representative inside Pachakutik, said that Lucio Gutiérrez “has reached his limit. We cannot continue endorsing the president’s neoliberal policies and his shift to the right.” As a result of this division, Ecuador’s social movement is now in “opposition to the government in the social, the political, and the economic, realms.” Talahua also mentioned the possibility of “mobilizations or even an indigenous uprising.”

Meanwhile, various demonstrations have already been announced for the coming week (including one by supporters and members of Gutiérrez’s own Patriotic Society Party). Defense Minister Nelson Herrera has warned that only officially authorized demonstrations will be permitted. (Is that a veiled threat of repression against the social movements?)

The United States’ Best Ally

Lucio Gutiérrez continues to restructure his government, and all signs indicate that the conservative right will support him. But from the beginning, his rule has been characterized by nepotism: his brother leads the party’s congressional delegation, his 18-year-old nephew was hired by the Ecuadorian consulate in Houston, his brother-in-law is his top advisor… but behind all this, Lucio has a great friend who we can’t forget: the President of the United States.

On November 19, 2002, this reporter heard the words of then-candidate Lucio Gutiérrez: “The only path left to we Latin Americans is unity, as the Simon Bolívar the Liberator brilliantly predicted.” And we all believed him…

But since those days he has forged a new alliance on the backs of the Ecuadorian people. Let’s look and some of the facts:

On Monday, November 26, one day after his triumph in the elections, Lucio Gutiérrez received a congratulatory call from George W. Bush, who also invited Gutiérrez to visit him in Washington. The next day, Bush announced a change in US policy for development aid: only those countries completely aligned with the Washington’s global political agenda would receive it.

On January 15 of this year, Gutiérrez’s first day in office, a man aligned with Grupo Producción – one of the most powerful business groups in Ecuador – was named Economic Minister in the new cabinet. Minister Mauricio Pozo has various links with the country’s banking groups – considered to be principally responsible for Ecuador’s financial collapse at the end of the 90’s – and supports following the IMF’s recommendations to the letter.

Lucio Gutiérrez hadn’t been in power for one month when he made his fist trip outside the country… to visit Bush in Washington. After an hour-long meeting, all the two presidents had to say about their conversation was that they had spoken about friendship, cooperation in the war on terrorism, and the financial assistance that the United could give to Ecuador.

As you can see, kind readers, it not simply “not acting according to the alliance” that resulted in Pachakutik’s departure from the government (and with them the great majority of the social and popular movments)… it was many things, and the last one to explain is this:


Patricio Acosta, Gutiérrez’s confidant and Secretary of Public Administration
Photo: El Universo de Guayaquil
In charge of the Department of Public Administration, a position similar to a Chief of Staff, is an ex-Colonel who is well-known to everyone in Ecuador as Gutiérrez’s best friend. Patricio Acosta, a member of the group of military officers who supported the indigenous uprising of January 21, 2000, has a varied cirriculum: as a soldier he has attended various programs at the School of the Americas (including a course in counter-insurgency), and he was the brains behind Gutiérrez’s campaingn in the party they founded together. Since taking office he has been sticking his nose into the work of the ministers, advisors and secretaries, and has traveled twice to the United States to meet with gringo officials.

In his last trip, to Washington and to New York, which began this past August 5, Patricio Acosta met with officials from the State Department, the Organization of American States, and other US-based institutions. As you can see, Acosta was there when Gutiérrez anounced the split in the alliance with Pachatutik. Coincidence? Let’s see:

In an article published August 10 in the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio, Acosta made some important statements. According to the article, Acosta’s mission “was directed towards winning economic support to fight drug trafficking.” Furthermore, “during his conversations with the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and International Monetary Fund, the Secretary of Administration realized that he would only get this support when the conditions [imposed by the IMF] were met.”

(Remember when Fernando Buendía, Pachakutik’s international relations coordinator and an ex-official in Mauricio Pozo’s Economic Ministry, told us that his organization would bring “a public debate, at the highest levels, on drug legalization”?)

Aside from winning a commitment on “the subject of the donation of helicopters and equipment for the police,” the secretary of administration also reminded the Bush administration officials that, “Ecuador continues being the United States’ great ally in the war on drugs and terrorism.”

But that’s not all…

One day later, in a telephone interview with the daily El Universo, Acosto made two key statements for understanding finally what was behind the split with Pachakutik:

1. “In the United States, there is a positive perception of Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez’s government.”

2. Many US spokespeople commented that, “they [the Gutiérrez government] should have broken this alliance [with Pachakutik] earlier.”

We can now see a general picture of the situation in Ecuador. Apparently, the virtual winner of the November 2002 Ecuadorian elections was George W. Bush, and the President of Ecuador will become simply another operative in the supposed “war on drugs” and the brutal “war on terrorism” imposed by the United States… and as always, all for the money. In fact, it didn’t cost much for Gutiérrez to betray his indigenous allies and the social movements.

But pay attention, kind readers; we have yet to see the effects of this new shift in the panorama of our América.

It is, now, the Ecuadorian people’s turn to speak.

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