|English | Español||August 15, 2018 | Issue #26|
Ecuador: Zero Hour at Zero Latitude
Part I: From the Ashes
By Luis Gómez - reporting from Ecuador
November 19, 2002
“We want a new country, more just, more honest, more human and authentically democratic. Together, we will construct our country.”
“The traditional media is linked to the bankers, who are, in fact, its owners. And they are linked to the large transnational monopolies. They have sustained the model of the State and its structure to respond to economic power groups… They’ve played a very frightening role during this election campaign.”
Arriving in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, with almost two million inhabitants, can be disconcerting if one comes from Bolivia or Perú… The scenery is very similar, surrounded by high green mountains, dense clouds and houses grappled to the slopes. In the street, the people appear the same as in Cochabamba or the Peruvian Andes region. In the streets, the Quechuas walk without hurry, attend to their small informal shops on the sidewalk.
And this correspondent, kind readers, feels that he has fallen into a mirror and has not traveled to this country, where the geographers have determined can be found at the exact mid-point of the planet… The words and sayings are almost the same. There are some common foods and a known language in between the words in Spanish… It could be that this country called América is an enormous hall of mirrors in which a fistful of men watch calmly… and where, from high above, the troops of George W. Bush prepare the plunder.
That’s why, here, the voices of dignity and rage, of the indomitable rebellion by Ecuadorian men and women, are also heard. Last October 20th, an unprecedented alliance of social movements made the sovereign power and decision of the Ecuadorian people concrete. Their candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez, came in first, although he did not gain the votes necessary to come to power in the first round and we will have to wait until Sunday, November 24th, for that to happen. And Narco News has come to this country to report for you this new chapter in the struggle for a true democracy in our lands….
Indigenous and Soldiers: Two United Powers
On the morning of January 21 of 2000, the National Hall of Congress awoke surrounded, the Supreme Court, too. Nearly 12,000 indigenous citizens had surrounded both places the day before. In all the provinces of Ecuador the farmers, the organizations of Civil Society, and the embattled indigenous rose up peacefully. They took the highways, the offices of the central government, the town and city halls. All to remove a president who had dollarized the economy, bringing a country controlled by the banks and multinational corporations into the deepest crisis in its history. The poor of Ecuador, affected like never before in their precarious economic status, decided to fight for survival.
And on this January morning, after almost a year of conflicts, strikes and brutal repression, they calmly waited for the politicians to pass the power to the people. Among the men in ponchos and sombreros, a group of officers from the Armed Forces walked. At 10 a.m. sharp, the indigenous, working together with the soldiers, succeeded in entering the seat of Congress and formed the National Salvation Board, joined by Antonio Vargas (then president of the National Indigenous Federation of Ecuador, the CONAIE in its Spanish initials), Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez (leader of the nationalist patriotic wing of the military) and Carlos Solórzano (former chief justice of the Supreme Court).
After various hours of tension and accusations, the man who caused the rebellion, President Jamil Mahuad, abandoned the Government Palace at around 6 p.m. and fled the country to avoid reprisals. However, the interim defense minister, General Carlos Mendoza, took over the palace and, in a dirty maneuver, ceded power to then-Vice President Gustavo Noboa… The bulk of the Armed Forces backed this decision and the rebels had to return home, betrayed but conscious of he immense power they had just demonstrated. Today, the nationalist soldiers and the social movements (especially the indigenous), united anew, are again at the doors to the palace, this time on the path of the vote.
El Reventador and the Media
According to the most recent poll taken in this country, Lucio Gutiérrez would obtain 65.3 percent of the valid votes next Sunday. His opponent, the Banana magnate Álvaro Noboa, will receive barely 34.7 percent of the vote. But in the streets of Quito it’s not obvious that we are in the decisive moments of a political struggle to define who will govern Ecuador for the next four years. About two weeks ago, the volcano – El Reventador – also demonstrated its fury; inundating the air with ashes and sulfur. Maybe, for this reason, both candidates are now in palm-to-palm combat in the interior of the country. One does not see the wide distribution of election propaganda like in other countries. There aren’t active campaign groups at the major intersections or posters on every wall and post in the city. In contrast, in a small restaurant in the center of the city, the waiter says, “Yes, I’m going to vote for Lucio, because I don’t see Noboa saving this country… and we need salvation urgently, we’re going under.”
And the media? Ah, this known power seems weakened. “First, you have to differentiate between the large media and the community media,” the indigenous congresswoman Nina Pacari explains to us. “The traditional media, in fact, have sustained the model of the State and its structure. They respond to the economic power groups, as media… but inside of those media outlets are many workers who have been with us, we have many allies there and some have also taken the risk of putting themselves out front. But, well, these large media outlets are linked to the bankers, who are, in fact, their owners. They are linked to the large transnational monopolies. I want to say… that they have played a very frightening role… But there are also the small and popular media outlets that have been an alternative during this electoral campaign.”
Certainly, in all the national dailies over the past three days, from what this correspondent has seen, the news of this transcendental battle occupies less than ten percent of the editions of El Comercial and Hoy (both newspapers in Quito) or of Expreso and El Universo (dailies in Guayaquil, the second most important city and the largest, by population). On TV, during the most-viewed programs, like soccer games and the public’s favorite dramas, there are mainly commercials by Álvaro Noboa who represents the decadent local oligarchy and they are dedicated mainly to insulting Lucio Gutiérrez, trying to provoke fear and deception among the voters… And this is no coincidence, because the transmission of election ads is regulated by the law and supposed to be equal, although Ecuadorian television companies take advantage of the loopholes to place the commercials of the popular alliance in the less-watched hours.
That’s why, among other reasons, Nina Pacari, the congresswoman of the Plurinational Pachakutik-New Country Movement (the political party of the CONAIE), has proposed a reform to the Radio and Television Law in Congress that, in addition to restricting the misbehavior of the traditional media, principally benefits the Community and Indigenous Radio stations: “We have been fighting, also, for democratization and access to the media. In 1998 we achieved passage of a Constitutional law that requires this. And recently my bill for community radio – not just for the indigenous but for every organized social sector – was approved, so that they have the right to publicity that they didn’t have before. This means that we are going to do it ourselves, and improve the equipment, the training and the budget will be for investment in the social side. We hope, at least, that in this form we will be able to work that way. And, clearly, that’s why the large media companies declared me persona non grata. But that just spurred us on to advance and obtain the law: Now that we have it, we are content. We’re going to compete with them, without fear, with all the force we need to fight for equality of technological conditions and training. And we’re going to see, in ten years, where this brings us…”
As you can see, kind readers, Nina Pacari is an intelligent and interesting person. We spoke with her about the historic alliance between indigenous, soldiers and diverse social organizations, about her political party (commonly called the Pachakutik) and of the social, political and economic reality of this country… And we will follow her efforts, not only because she is one of the people in the most intimate circles of advisors and allies of Lucio Gutiérrez, but also because within a few months she is going to be a consultant to her brothers and sisters of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party in Bolivia on various matters. For now, we’ll leave it at this: The traditional media of this country is corrupt, married to the dominant interests and they try to hide the relevance of this electoral process from the citizenry that, like El Reventador, could explode at any moment in its face and leave the media companies as dirty on the outside as they are on the inside…
Something About Lucio
If nothing changes over the next few days, on Monday, November 25th, this colonel with a vast military and professional training, friendly and patriotic, will be the new president of Ecuador. Yes, but many still question who he is, and his similarities with the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, or whether his government policies will be merely populist, without changes at the core of the organization of the Ecuadorian Society and State.
Lucio Gutiérrez has declared “a war to the death with corruption in all forms,” considering it as the principal cause of the national disaster. To achive this, among other things, the movements and parties of his political alliance have created sixteen work groups, each one with more than a dozen members, that discuss daily the content of what will be the Governmental Program of Integration and National Salvation, “inspired by the ideals of the Liberator Simón Bolívar, the General of free men, Eloy Alfaro (a president of a popular nationalist tendency who created secular education and whose memory inspired the peculiar name of the most well-known guerrilla of Ecuador: “Alvaro vive, carajo!”)
And there’s more. As he thinks about the consolidation of a new State, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, Gutiérrez wants Ecuador to join the process of integrating Latin America as “an indispensable mechanism to ensure our sovereignty and standing in the global community. The only path left for Latin America is unity, as the Liberator Simón Bolívar brilliantly predicted.”
To achieve all this, the future government plans to increase employment and basic services, create an agrarian bank and special tribunals that will judge crimes against the people, and many other things. At the same time, “policies of economic and social compensation” will be instituted for those who have the least: “The creation of an economic model; sustainable, humanist, equal and with solidarity,” that, in a few words, “rejects the economic model imposed by neoliberal globalization.” Is this bad? Dangerous? It depends who is asked… In Ecuador many, the majority, are pleased with this. They want to construct a new country from below… Today, in Washington… well, this will be a matter for an upcoming report…
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