April 27, 2005
ECUADOR: FALL OF GUTIÉRREZ EXEMPLIFIES ANDEAN 'INSTABILITY'
** Gutiérrez's downfall tied to his "contradictory behavior" and "trampling" of constitution.
** "Common roots" of Latin popular revolts--weak institutions and "highly conflictive" societies.
** Some view Gutiérrez's removal less as a populist uprising than as an old-fashioned coup.
** The OAS' Democratic Charter "will be put to the test" in Ecuador.
'Goodbye, Mr. Dictocrat'-- Ecuadorian dailies blamed the fall of President Lucio Gutiérrez on his "deceit and lies" and said he "made the mistake of his life conspiring with" [ex-president] Abdalá Bucaram for his return. Quito's center-left Hoy called that "the straw that broke the camel's back," adding that the country had "not forgotten [Bucaram's] scandalous corruption." As Ecuador's economy is in "robust" shape, one Argentine paper noted, "the crisis ousting Lucio Gutiérrez...was political and institutional." As president, a Brazilian writer said, Gutiérrez "distinguished himself by his taste for confrontation and by his disdain for dialogue."
'Waves of instability' wash across the Andes-- Other Latin dailies observed that Eucador's experience is not unique, but becoming more common in a continent that they increasingly see "in flames." Ecuador's crisis "made apparent the wave of recurring institutional instability, which has put several countries of the region on the verge of the abyss." Brazil's center-right O Globo pointed to "the tradition of irresponsible populism that only concerns itself with the fate of the most needy in the hour of asking for votes." As a result, said a Venezuelan writer, politics "is being devalued as an instrument for the solution of national conflicts."
Popular revolt or coup d'état?-- Citing "indications that palace intrigue" and withdrawal of support by the military were "as decisive in ousting the president" as popular unrest, some outlets held it was becoming "harder not to label" Gutiérrez's fall a coup d'état; they cautioned OAS governments not to prematurely recognize the successor regime. Center-right Peru.21 remarked that "now the coups have a 'democratic' veneer, because they are instrumentalized through Congress." Spanish editorialists saw "Bolivarian interests" at work "where institutions have been...defeated" by popular revolt. Opined conservative ABC, "forces in the region interested in increasing instability...could try to take advantage of the current situation."
Need to 'reconstruct democratic institutions'-- Ecuadorian media, calling the country's crisis only "half-resolved," warned new President Palacio that he does not have "a blank check" and must lay the ground for "participatory democracy." Analysts elsewhere argued that the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter, under which the body should examine the circumstances of Gutiérrez's ouster, "will be put to the test in Ecuador." Venezuela's leading conservative El Universal maintained the OAS could have "prevented the crisis" if it had acted under the Charter months ago, adding that "now any OAS decision could worsen the situation, because it is important to remember that Gutiérrez himself was the one that did not respect the rule of law" when he meddled with the judiciary by trying to pack the Supreme Court.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 44 reports from 9 countries over April 18 - 25, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
ECUADOR: "Military Crisis Not Recent"
Quito's leading centrist El Comercio commented (Internet version, 4/24): "The deep divisions that former President Lucio Gutiérrez created in the ranks of the military will take a long time to heal. Only days after taking office, Gutiérrez threw 18 generals out of the Armed Forces in a major shake-up. Throughout his administration, he was unable to distance himself from his former comrades in arms. He asked his Defense Minister Nelson Herrera to institute procedures to pardon 461 Army personnel who took part in the 21 January 2000 coup. The Army refused. But one of Gutiérrez's gravest decisions was to place serving military personnel in government posts. By doing so, he deepened the divide in the military and opened the door to corruption. This benefit to officers close to Gutiérrez or to his brother Gilmar was viewed very poorly by fellow officers who were concerned about their low pay. To this chain of political errors was added the denunciations of corruption among the military, which greatly undermined the credibility of the Armed Forces. The divisions caused by Colonel Gutiérrez even affected the high command, as was seen over recent days in Quito. The high command waited for the social upheavals to get out of hand before making a statement on the excesses. Moreover, it waited for former Police Commander Jorge Poveda to resign before taking the risk."
"Continuity Of Democratic Order"
Quito's center-left daily Hoy editorialized (Internet version, 4/22): "The OAS today will tackle the constitutionality of Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez’s removal from office. The Democratic Charter impels American countries to uphold democratic principles and respect human rights. In effect, they must be applied when a regime ruptures the Constitution to disavow the independent function of the judiciary.... Lucio Gutiérrez fell into his own trap; all that he did to de-institutionalize democracy in the country led finally to his ouster. The Constitution establishes that 'sovereignty is rooted in the people whose will provide the base of authority'.... The people expressed themselves and the overwhelming pressure caused Gutiérrez to relinquish control. Constitutional succession has been the form for orderly democratic succession. The citizenry has demonstrated the necessity to reconstruct our democratic institutions and to strengthen them in order to avoid a return to the cycle of perversion which has done so much damage to the country."
Quito's leading centrist daily El Comercio asserted (4/21): "[The country] is facing a half-resolved crisis... [The] long-term challenge [is to] build a different democracy [with] participation by the people."
"And Now What?"
Quito's center-left daily Hoy stated (4/21): "Neither the political problem nor all the citizens' demands...have been resolved.... [Palacio] does not have a blank check [and should lay the foundation for] participatory democracy."
Diego Araujo Sanchez wrote in Quito’s center-left Hoy (4/18): “The straw that broke the camel’s back was the return of [ex-president] Abdalá Bucaram; the capital has not forgotten his scandalous corruption nor the offensive shamelessness of his short tenure. The president made the worst mistake of his life conspiring with Bucaram [for his return] and placing himself in his and Alvaro Noboa’s [PRIAN party leader] hands. When government-aligned congressmen assaulted the Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Tribunal and parceled out the Electoral Tribunals, they all yelled victory, but it was just a short-lived and useless triumph. Gutiérrez, who arrived in Carondelet with the promise of fighting against corruption, and who has repeatedly stated he fights against oligarchies, took off his mask and showed his hypocrisy by favoring the impunity of a former president charged with corruption and forging an alliance with him.”
"Trampling On Democracy"
Grace Jaramillo wrote in Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio (4/18): “Requiem. Democracy ceased to exist officially on Friday at 9:31 PM when the president died attempting to respect the Constitution and make everyone else respect it. Since that day, the leader has a new presidential sash that reads, ‘I am the state.' Under this premise he assumed the functions that correspond only to the National Congress.... Quito has become an [expression of community sentiment], where neither the parties nor the political movements were able to channel the citizens’ will and now the only demand is the ousting of Lucio Gutiérrez and with him the whole political class. How much longer will the regime endure internal and international pressure?
"Gutiérrez, End To So Much Deceit"
Miguel Rivadeneira contended in Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio (4/18): "The people from Quito are fed up and are putting an end to so much deceit and lies from Col. Gutiérrez. The popular uprising, without political leaders, is starting to spread throughout the country because we cannot stand any more what the Colonel, his family, friends, and those who enjoy power have done. The issue is not only the elimination of the unconstitutional Court, but the ousting of the Colonel who supported it as well.”
ARGENTINA: "The Impotence Of Power"
The liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald editorialized (4/22): "The crisis ousting Lucio Gutiérrez after 27 months was political and institutional rather than economic--even with up to two-thirds of the population below the poverty line, Ecuador's economy is robust with world oil prices and the exchange rate alike smiling on dollarization to the tune of six percent growth last year. Gutiérrez employed a tried-and-true formula to combine political and economic success--election on a populist platform, only to apply market-friendly policies. His flaw was rather to multiply his enemies and contradictions until forced to flee in a helicopter.... The contradictory presidential conduct in ousting his own court collided with an equally contradictory public mood--a week of protests starting with howls against a corrupt court ended with cries for removal of the tyrant who had purged that court.... Two other institutional flaws--Gutiérrez was not in any terminal trouble until the army pulled the plug and a congress that had failed to impeach him was able to throw him out with a simple majority of 60 deputies when the constitution stipulates two-thirds. There is no guarantee that Ecuador's upheavals in a turbulent zone of the region are over."
"Instability, Now In Ecuador"
Leading Clarin observed (4/22): "The waves of instability in Andean countries' democracies have their national peculiarities but also common roots and, as such, they deserve a shared concern--a regional analysis and commitment. What happens that these periodic outbursts occur in highly conflictive societies and institutions lacking capability of response to social demands. To this, we should add abusive attitudes from their leaders.... Gutiérrez...projected his figure as a military man...who rebelled against the dirty dealings of traditional political leaders and, thus, proposed a profound institutional overhauling.... The Ecuadorian former president ended up in the same place as his past opponents, was exposed to harsh criticism from several sectors and suspected of having made decisions...that were alleged acts of power abuse and turned against him."
"The Crisis In Ecuador"
Daily-of-record La Nacion concluded (4/22): "Harassed by popular discontent and violent social protest demonstrations, Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutiérrez was removed by Congress after a profound institutional crisis that harshly exhibited the fragile democracy of the Andean country and unleashes big questions on its future.... The crisis in Ecuador made apparent the wave of recurring institutional instability, which has put several countries of the region on the verge of the abyss.... The new president of Ecuador, Alfredo Palacio, will have to complete the constitutional term in office of the removed head of state, which will end in January 2007. The new president will face the huge challenge of stabilizing the country amid an atmosphere of popular agitation and overall disbelief of political leaders, for which the best tools will be the respect for institutions and the independence of the three branches of power."
Marcelo Cantelmi observed in leading Clarin (4/21): "Ecuador has an extremely concentrated, dollarized economy.... While corruption is always irritating, it is unlikely to have been the only reason for the rebellion that put an end to the Lucio Gutiérrez administration.... In despair, Gutiérrez sought shameful alliances that did nothing but add more weakness to his government. With a prospect of protests from his former indigenous allies...whom he abandoned after taking power, quite a few believed that Gutiérrez could hardly avoid the radicalization of the conflict in the country."
"Washington Fears A 'Contagion Effect'"
Hugo Alconada Mon wrote from Washington in daily-of-record La Nacion (4/21): "Fearing that the crisis in Ecuador could destabilize even further the volatile Andean region...the challenge for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice not only lies in coordinating action with other countries of the region (firstly, Brazil, Argentina and Chile) to pacify Ecuador but also avoiding the feared 'contagion effect' from spreading to other unstable Andean territories, like Bolivia and Peru."
"The People's Coup d'Etat"
Claudio Uriarte commented in left-of-center Pagina 12 (4/21): "A new concept of political succession seems to be emerging in Latin America, the people's coup d'etat. Abdala Bucaram in Ecuador in 1997, Raul Cubas in Paraguay in 1999, Jamil Mahuad again in Ecuador in 2000, Fernando de la Rua in Argentina in 2001, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002, Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada in Bolivia in 2003, Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti in 2004 and now Lucio Gutiérrez for the third time in Ecuador. Leaving aside obvious political differences...there are some common features: mass mobilization as a factor to speed up changes, the key role of legislators and political leaders as 'hinges' for changes and sometimes, the positioning and cohesion degree of repression forces...as the final element that defines the mobilization's defeat (Venezuela) or success (Ecuador I, II and III)."
"The Region, Facing Another Failure"
Ines Capdevila had this to say in daily-of-record La Nacion (Internet version, 4/21): "If it were for what has happened in the last eight years, it would be necessary to advise the presidents of Ecuador to lease a house in Panama or to buy a helicopter when they take office.... They would thus ensure themselves a rapid and comfortable escape when the popular upheavals Ecuadorians are so accustomed to break out. Since 1997, three presidents...had to leave.... They were harassed by massive discontent, their own mistakes, political coalitions, which were too weak, and ambitions for power, which were too strong. If those social revolts had proven successful in Latin America, Ecuador would have to be proud of having been the pioneer. Since a popular uprising evicted the exotic [former Ecuadorian President] Adbala Bucaram in 1997, Paraguay, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Haiti, and Ecuador again had their street revolts.... Several presidents used the helicopter to escape the wave of institutional breakdowns which rocked the region and made it dream of renewal. But this renewal is still overdue. As Ecuador made clear yesterday, Latin-American revolts remove more than they renew. And, while the helicopter or the house in Panama may be the solution for popular and political impatience and inefficient administrations, the region is running the risk of repeated institutional failure....
"In nine years, Ecuadorians' impatience, which perhaps leads them to believe that by toppling a president his government's vices will disappear, did not manage to tone itself down. The country's problems did not change either: unemployment and corruption, ingrained; inequality and poverty, ignored; governments and opposition, betrayed by an excessive ambition for power which took them, as in the case of Lucio Gutiérrez, to trampling on the Constitution and to believing that Congress or Justice were but parts of their fiefdom. The political players renovated themselves even less. Bucaram and Mahuad are at the heart of the Ecuadorian crisis. The Supreme Court, manipulated by Gutiérrez, annulled the charges of corruption against them and permitted them to return 20 days ago. As if that were insufficient, Bucaram also announced that he would return to politics. The failure of the social revolts to renew a country's leadership is not exclusive to Ecuador.... Popular revolts have also become a constant in the former Soviet republics. The difference is that they have, to a large extent, parliamentary systems which, though they do not stop institutional breakdowns, do offset their political effects and their social and political costs definitively. But, of course, in presidential systems such as the Latin American, it is more difficult to encourage a profound reform, which stimulates renewal, than it is to purchase a helicopter. One can always return on the helicopter once the popular fury has burnt out."
BRAZIL: "Consequences Of Ecuador"
Political columnist Sergio Leo remarked in business-oriented Valor Economico’s (4/25): “The crisis in Ecuador may have serious consequences for Brazil’s foreign policy.... President Lucio Gutiérrez’s quick removal is a very good action the Lula administration provided to limping Alfredo Palacio’s government. After helping to remove from stage an actor that almost no one wanted, the GOB is now concerned to ensure political stability in Ecuador, something that according to diplomats will only be possible with the election of a new government. This is also what the U.S. thinks.... Gutiérrez’s replacement did not follow the Ecuadorian constitution. For the same reason, the OAS hesitates in recognizing the Palacio’s legitimacy.... There is no signal that discontentment with the asylum given to the former president will affect the image of Brazilian companies operating in Ecuador.... The GOB’s diplomatic action brings another type of risk and also the suspicion that another conflict has been open in the difficult relationship with Argentina. Before Gutiérrez’s fall, diplomats of the Nestor Kirchner administration reminded that Argentina is currently leading the Group of Rio and that they were ready to act should a worsening occurred in the Ecuadorian crisis. Immediately after Gutiérrez’s fall, however, the Brazilian diplomacy articulated what can be the first action of the recently created South American Community of Nations (Casa), which announced the sending of a mission to Ecuador.... In the attempt to exert leadership in the continent, Brazil is now facing the challenge of finding out how to deal with a government that [came to power in] a coup and that contradicts democratic principles recently included in agreements disseminated throughout the region. The Brazilian diplomacy will also have the opportunity to find out if it is still possible to carry out any diplomatic action in the continent in common concurrence with Mercosul’s fussiest partner.”
"Coup And Political Asylum"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo remarked (Internet version, 4/24): "As the succession of events that led to the ouster of Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutiérrez grows clearer, it becomes harder not to label it a coup d'état. It is true that his ouster took place amid a climate of widespread popular protests. Yet there are growing indications that palace intrigue was as decisive in ousting the president as the demonstrations, if not more so. Coup or not, Gutiérrez's fate appears sealed. It is important, however, to establish whether or not there was a plot in order to determine the legitimacy of the self-proclaimed new government. In 2001 the OAS (Organization of American States) adopted the democratic clause, which allows taking action against countries where there has been an institutional breakdown. It would be very difficult to attribute Gutiérrez's fall to the demonstrations alone. The session of Congress that declared the presidency vacant is rife with irregularities. A debate did not even take place before the deputies decided to depose the president. The commander of the Armed Forces General Staff then immediately announced that the military were 'withdrawing' support for the president, an act that the Constitution characterizes as treason. A few hours later the attorney general issued an arrest warrant against Gutiérrez, which is very odd indeed since the president was not under any sort of investigation. The community of nations might even accept the new leaders as a fait accompli, but it should demand that Ecuador immediately hold free elections. As for asylum for Gutiérrez, there is no doubt that Brazil should offer him asylum. The granting of asylum is one of the 10 directives that should guide Brazilian foreign policy, according to the Constitution (article 4, X). There is even humanitarian justification for Brazil's gesture. This principle, however, is not absolute. Brazil need not receive a tyrant who has committed crimes against his own people, like Saddam Hussein. But this is very far from being the case of Ecuador's former president, whose worst crime seems to be populism aggravated by a lack of political skill."
Eliane Cantanhede declared in liberal Folha de S. Paulo (4/22): “This is Ecuador’s recipe for a chronic crisis: an elite that is insatiable and deeply identified with Washington, a native illiterate population living in shameful misery, fragile institutions, absence of leaders, and political actors who do not understand each other.... This recipe has already overthrown three Ecuadorian presidents in a row…. Gutiérrez is gone, but the Ecuadorian crisis continues without a chance to be resolved…. What is most curious in all such confusion is that the economy is working well in Ecuador, a nation that has the lowest inflation rate in the continent (1.2 percent per year) and that has profited with the fall of the dollar and the hike of oil prices. The problem is that the economy may even work will, but the people live poorly. There cannot be political stability without a minimum of social justice. And there is not a minimum of social justice if the economy is made of the capital, by the capital and only for the capital. The result can only be this: fall of presidents, insecurity, political and institutional deterioration.”
"History’s Trash Bin"
Center-right O Globo had this to say (4/21) "Former Army Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez, as president...distinguished himself by his taste for confrontation and by his disdain for dialogue and the search for conciliation.... Gutiérrez is merely the most recent representative of a retrograde tradition that the continent will, shortly but most decidedly, dispose of in history’s trash bin--the tradition of irresponsible populism that only concerns itself with the fate of the most needy in the hour of asking for votes; of the disrespect for law, in order to benefit political allies and to cover-up corrupt practices; and the fomenting of rivalry between the social classes in the interest of personal, politically spurious projects."
"Crisis In Ecuador"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (4/21): “Lucio Gutiérrez’s deposition has confirmed the chronic scenario of instability in Ecuador.... Latin America has watched the overthrown of presidents as a result of popular protests. In addition to Ecuador, presidents have already fallen in Bolivia (Sanchez de Lozada), Argentina (Fernando de la Rua), Peru (Alberto Fujimori) and Paraguay (Raul Cubas). It would be exaggeration to speak about the end of populism, but the population’s tolerance vis-à-vis bad governance seems to have been reduced.”
Eliane Cantanhede observed in liberal Folha de S. Paulo (Internet version, 4/21): "Yesterday, yet another president of Ecuador fell, this time Lucio Gutiérrez. Elected with a platform and allies from the Left, he slipped into neoliberalism. He lost his campaign allies and did not win the confidence of the government's neo-allies. The economy is going well, but the politics are going badly. The population reacted, the armed forces washed their hands [of him], the encirclement was closed. There is a good lesson there. The crisis does not stop there. The government of Bolivia is on the verge of falling. Peru's is barely surviving. The Colombia-Venezuela border is living with fright. Not to mention that Chavez is celebrating $1 billion in weapons obtained from Spain and parading with his 30,000 new soldiers. A Chavist militia. It is a message to somebody, probably the United States. There is, in short, a continent in flames. Precisely the one in which Lula is practicing the role of candidate for world leader and in which he is going to receive America's Condoleezza Rice next week and representatives from 22 Arab countries next month."
MEXICO: "Ecuador: People's Rage"
Left-of-center La Jornada editorialized (4/21): "Without leaving aside the major structural differences between Mexico and Ecuador, it would be good for the Mexican ruling class to note the differences and the coincidences between Fox and Lucio Gutiérrez: almost all their electoral promises never carried out by the presidents; the alliance between the Fox administration and (former president) Carlos Salinas, which is evident; the use of power to try to remove enemies such as Andrés Manuel López Obrador.... With regard to Ecuador, one hopes that the country soon finds its way back to its institutions and stability; its political class should realize that the margins of patience have reached their limit."
"Goodbye Mr. Dictocrat"
Academic Gloria Abella wrote in independent Diario Monitor (4/21): "As expected, former president Lucio Gutiérrez was removed by Ecuador's Congress. The self-appointed 'dictocrat' challenged practically all the political forces, with which he refused to negotiate, thinking he would have the unconditional support of the armed forces in imposing an authoritarian regime. What happened in Ecuador seems to be a repetition of the experiences in Bolivia and Haiti, where Sánchez de Lozada and Aristide were forced to resign. The slogan 'everybody out,' which became popular in Argentina after the shameful escape of Fernando de la Rúa by helicopter, became the indignant cry of Ecuadorians fed up with one of the most corrupt political classes in Latin America.... The case of Lucio Gutiérrez will be a point of reference for analyzing failed populist regimes that become authoritarian in Latin America. A person who organizes a coup d'état cannot be called a democrat; but in some cases he could be, as Hugo Chavez is, a demagogue."
CHILE: "Crisis In Ecuador"
Popular, conservative La Segunda commented (4/21): "There is an unquestionable abyss between Ecuador's extremely serious, unattended socioeconomic problems and the rhetoric about moral renewal.... If the institutional structure collapses, it must be rebuilt with patience.... Ecuador has sufficient resources, but needs to better administer them.”
"A Bad Recipe"
Government-owned, editorially independent La Nacion editorialized (4/22): “It’s discouraging to report that another South American president did not conclude his term in office.... In Ecuador, the general disdain for politicians stems from an anomalous presidential system that permits the election of a president who does not have majority support...and the lack of legitimacy of institutions, perceived as booty for distribution to clients of the authorities in office.... The new president of Ecuador faces unavoidable challenges. The most urgent one is to show clear signs of good government, prudence, and sense of national unity.”
"What Does The Crisis In Ecuador Say About Latin America?"
Leading-circulation, independent daily La Tercera took this view (4/22): “The instability of its institutions has been key to how Ecuador’s democracy operates. This same element...has also appeared in recent years in Bolivia and to a lesser degree in Peru...and is expressing itself in different ways in other Latin American countries.... A decade since the last country in the region returned to democracy (Chile), there remains a kind of 'institutional deficit' in a great many nations that irremediably hurts democracy.”
"The Problem Of Governing Ecuador"
Center left daily Diario Siete argued (4/22): “The key issue is the commitment of Ecuador's political forces to the democratic process. This means consolidating an institutional system that prevents the concentration of power.”
PERU: "Lessons From A Fall"
Center-left daily La Republica editorialized (4/21): "The fall of Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador provides an exemplary lesson to countries in the region: to extend the mantle of about a corrupt former president can end in protests capabale of bringing down the originator of the action.... Ecuador and Peru have much in common. It is up to us [Peruvians] that the Bucaram-Gutiérrez story is not repeated here. Impunity must not be tolerated...ever again."
"Ecuador Should Be Parliamentarist"
Director of center-right daily Correo Aldo Mariategui argued (4/21): "I hope the Ecuador situation does not complicate the FTA for Peru!... At least, in Ecuador it seems evident that parliamentarism should be adopted. A country is changing governments time after time because of protest demonstrations.... I hope that there is no one here who might begin similar actions against Toledo. He should finish his term, no matter how unpopular or incompetent he is."
"Strike After Strike: Why Latin Americans Depose Presidents"
Augusto Alvarez-Rodrich opined in center-right daily Peru.21 (4/21): "In the middle of blood and fire, as these things usually happen, another Ecuadorean president was deposed yesterday. Within the last decade not a single Ecuadoran president has finished his term. But the chaotic sequel of Ecuador's fragile democracy is not the patrimony of Ecuador only.... Distinct from the 1980's, when institutional crisis were solved with tanks in the streets, now the coups have a 'democratic' veneer, because they are instrumentalized through Congress...where they have become both a source of instability and an expression of serious problems which have not been solved. The causes of presidential removal differ according to the specific circumstances of each country. But there are common elements: irresponsible and corrupt politicians incapable of representing the people, the absence of mechanisms to address social problems efficiently, poverty and the lack of progress for the majority of the population, and the obscure political pacts that guarantee impunity."
VENEZUELA: "Ecuador And The OAS"
Pro-government daily tabloid Diario VEA editorialized (4/25): “The OAS so-called ‘Democratic Charter’ is a sort of figurehead to justify U.S. meddling into the Latin American countries’ domestic affairs. The OAS 'democratic charter' does not take into account the diverse forms of expression of the popular sovereignty and it intends to apply models that do not correspond to the realities of the Latin American nations. Lucio Gutiérrez fell because he lost the two pillars that support governments in our countries: the popular support and the armed forces. Without them, no government can survive in Ecuador or in Venezuela or in any Latin American country. The experience of Ecuador teaches us that ruling requires the support of the people. That was also the experience of Venezuela on April 11, 2002. Without the popular support and the armed forces, democracy, sovereignty and peace in our country would not have survived.”
"A Dead End"
Leading liberal daily El Nacional held (4/23): “The very difficult crisis in Ecuador mirrors the difficult times the Organization of the American States, the organization in charge of taking care of the stability of the democratic systems in the hemisphere and of the preservation of the rule of law, is going through. The OAS was forced to postpone calling for the permanent council to study the situation in Ecuador. The first thing that becomes evident is that the organization did not have enough instruments to anticipate the crises. The crisis in Ecuador was not triggered when the Congress removed Lucio Gutiérrez, but before, when Colonel Gutiérrez removed the justices of the Supreme Court. The Inter American Charter is again being put to the test. Nobody will be able to advocate for Colonel Gutiérrez because he was the first one to disrespect the Constitution. The weakness of the system begins when in the countries the checks and balances are disrupted and these situations are accepted as legitimate. The Charter has proven to be code of behavior rather than an instrument to preserve democracy.”
"To Resign Or To Cling To Power"
Ignacio Enrique Oberto F. commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (4/22): “In the presidential systems of Latin America, to resign or to cling to power turns into an individual, ethical and moral issue for a ruler and not a matter of the political system or of the existence of valves. It’s a gesture of greatness in the name of peace and collective quiet opposed to the selfishness and lack of sensitivity that is so typical of the autocratic, totalitarian and militaristic governments.”
"The OAS: Late, But Surely?"
Foreign affairs expert Julio Cesar Pineda wrote in leading conservative daily El Universal (4/22): “The OAS made a statement on the situation in Ecuador too late. Ecuador has been living a deep institutional crisis, after the Congress removed President Lucio Gutiérrez from power as a result of his decision to remove 31 justices of the Supreme Court who did not follow his line of political action. The OAS should have made a statement about the situation in Ecuador in December 2004 and have applied the Democratic Charter, which would have prevented the crisis. Now any OAS decision could worsen the situation, because it is important to remember that Gutiérrez himself was the one that did not respect the rule of law when he meddled into another branch of government: the judiciary. Now, another branch is the one that imposes over the executive branch. Why does the OAS give more support to the executive branch than it does to other branches? This is the consequence of the presidential regimes in Latin America, which favors the figure of the strong man, of the president over the rest of the branches of government. These branches should work in real balance in order to strengthen the institutions and the development of our countries.”
Journalist Argelia Rios wrote in leading conservative daily El Universal (4/22): “Democracy in the hemisphere is under a constant risk. The tendency is clear and the was begun with Alberto Fujimori, whose print marked Venezuelan president’s steps, the paradigm Gutiérrez wanted to emulate with little success. Each one of them, in their own ways, took advantage of the fragilities of the Inter-American system, which refuses to understand the negative effect generated by the progressive flexibility of the concept of democracy, nowadays reduced to a simple technical mechanism: the vote. Perhaps the Ecuadorian case will encourage the Inter-American system to adapt its performance and its norms to the new realities of the region, including the phenomena of Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. The lack of politics, of national institutions and of instruments of multilateral legality does not prevent the peoples, by themselves, to seek and reach the restitution of their sovereignty. Deep down, politics is what is being devalued as an instrument for the solution of the national conflicts. The threat involves them all. And if nobody does anything, the tendency will increase until the limits of madness. In Ecuador, citizens filled the vacuum left by the lack of politics.”
"The Coup D’État”
Journalist Eleazar Díaz Rangel commented in national daily tabloid Ultimas Noticias (4/22): “No matter how you see the situation in Ecuador, what happened there was a coup d’état. Gutiérrez left the presidency under the pressure of the circumstances created by the decision of the generals. If the Inter-American Charter is to be respected, that government of Palacios should not be recognized. But another solution does not seem to appear, because there is no possibility Gutiérrez is coming back, without the support of the barracks or of the streets. But just like Haiti, in Ecuador the constitutional president was virtually toppled. If the governments of Latin America are not clear about what steps should be taken, in Ecuador yesterday’s apparent quiet hides tensions, uncertainties and confusion, a lack of leadership and of governance, which makes us suppose that Palacios’ government may well be provisional.”
Pro-government daily tabloid Diario VEA editorialized (4/22): “Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez got to the presidency of Ecuador in the framework of great popular expectation. However, Colonel Gutiérrez never really had a political project. He never anchored himself to an ideology. Lucio Gutiérrez had a gray government. Upon getting to power, he turned his back on his people’s hopes and interests. He went back to the traditional politics, to the engagements with the United States, to the pacts with corrupt politicians. The Ecuadorian people will come out of this crisis with great experience and a strong consciousness.”
"A Cureless Disease"
Political analyst and columnist Antonio Sánchez García commented in liberal daily tabloid El Nuevo Pais (4/22): “Latin America is again embroiled in irregular events. No wonder a friend of mine, an important journalist responded to my observation on President Bush’s neglect of our region in his last State of the Union speech. His answer was cruel but right: why would the U.S. and Europe be interested in region like ours, in a permanent state of instability, poor and impoverished by corrupt governments, unable to fight for solid economic growth and permanently ravaged by riots and lack of seriousness? It is understandable that European powers and the U.S. are interested in taking us seriously. Will we ever take ourselves seriously? Only God knows the answer.”
"Ecuador In Crisis"
Leading liberal daily El Nacional editorialized (4/21): “It is not possible to underestimate the similarities between the process in Ecuador and the process in Venezuela with Hugo Chávez. But the similarities soon turned into differences, especially with regard to the way of conducting the plans of political and institutional reform, of the economic orientation and of the relations with the U.S. administration. The seeds of destabilization in the Andean region have started to bear its fruits. Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez’s fall will probably be followed by those of others. Instability has been a disturbing factor in Ecuadorian politics. The governments, no matter the political tendency, don’t seem to be able to solve the social problems. Something similar has been happening in Bolivia. Gutiérrez lost power due to his tendency towards the authoritarian methods, his lack of dialogue and his incapacity to reach consensus. Watching the imminent crisis, former President Abdalá Bucaram decided to go back to Ecuador after a long exile. His first words were to proclaim that he wanted ‘a government like Chávez’s in Venezuela’ for Ecuador. In fact, the hemispheric community did little to avoid this event, which only contributes to the destabilizing plans being pushed forward in the region. The OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter will be put to the test in Ecuador and we will see if it works.”
GERMANY: "Ecuador's New President"
Right-of-center Schwäbische Zeitung of Leutkirch had this to say (4/25): "Again nothing will change. A minute, Caucasian upper class rakes in the money, while the great mass of people does not even have an idea of how much it is. And the military acts like a state in a state. People's tribunes are immediately using growing anger of the people for their careers. They are allowed to govern only as long as the generals allow them to do so. This policy according to the military's discretion, has a tradition in Latin America as a whole the most backward-oriented countries in Central America and in the Andes it is part of daily life. But the Europeans and Americans have no reason to take the moral high ground. They hardly help the region. It is only one example that the banana republic Ecuador is not allowed to export its bananas to Europe because Brussels prevents this with a usurious tariff. The situation is not much better in the neighboring countries. In Venezuela, there is a one-man show, in Colombia we have a bush war, in Bolivia the total blockade, in Peru the announcement of the next political quake. In the Andes countries, democracy only stands on paper, but it does not have a supportive foundation in the region."
"Reasons For Instability"
Wolfgang Kunath opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (4/22): "No one likes to play the role of Alfredo Palacio. He got the job of Ecuador's president literally overnight. And since he is no party member, i.e. he has no power that backs him, his presidency is likely to come soon to an end. Ecuador's edifice of institutions is unstable as the departure of several presidents over the past few years shows. The reason that triggered the crisis must also be sought there: how stable can a state be whose highest court is left to the parties as a sinecure.... But is it not society, and not the state, that needs to be stabilized? If 60 percent of Ecuadorians are considered poor, if practically nothing of the revenue from the export of bananas or oil trickles down to the people...unstable state institutions are not the main problem, but only an indication. The poor pinned their hopes on Gutiérrez and his left-wing nationalist program. They have now been bitterly disappointed. There are no indications that the situation will now improve."
"Masses Without Power"
Peter Burghardt noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (4/22): "The pictures from Ecuador look familiar.... Again, a nation on the brink of disaster.... The most recent developments in the Andes region are symptoms of an explosive crisis. In all cases, the issue is rulers whom a majority of the people consider authoritarian or and who have the reputation of preferring the interests of a small minority over the well-being of the people. In all cases, natural resources are involved whose revenue traditionally goes into he pockets of an elite.... In all cases rampant corruptions, nepotism, and violence are involved.... The situation in Ecuador is especially threatening because the country has borders with Colombia. Again and again, presidents were deposed without a legal basis supporting such a move. In seven years, five presidents were ousted. It is unlikely that the new man Palacio will be able to hold out in this ongoing chaos."
Alexander Busch noted in an editorial in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (4/22): "For the second time in five years, the president in Ecuador was deposed. This is a bad omen not only for Ecuador but also for Latin America as a whole. The subcontinent is heading for its next crisis and this with a high speed.... The problem for the region is that the governments will be unable to counter external phases of weakness with their own measures. Their hands are tied. In such important countries as Brazil, Mexico, but also Chile and Peru, Venezuela and Colombia pre-election campaigns have begun, and this means that politics will show its ugly side; currently they are washing their dirty linen in public. The majority of governments are fighting to survive, and there is not a single one that is interested in initiating uncomfortable reforms.... On the contrary, those who are able to do so are trying to increase state spending to stimulate investments in the infrastructure.... The mixture of weak economic growth and stagnating policy is explosive, because it destroys the basis of the current success of Latin America. The previous strategy was as follows: almost all Latin American governments were originally left-wing governments, but the majority then pursued a pragmatic, rather conservative, economic and finance policy.... As long as the economy kept going, the majority of voters were willing to accept this, but if growth is declining, left-wing ideologies could quickly become fashionable again, as now in Ecuador.... And experience teaches us: an economically and politically unstable region like Latin America would be quickly pushed to the sidelines by Wall Street through few ideologically heated election campaigns."
SPAIN: "Crisis In Ecuador"
Conservative ABC wrote (4/22): "There is no doubt that there are forces in the region interested in increasing instability, and as nobody doubts that at the beginning Colonel Gutiérrez listened to the siren songs of the 'Bolivarian revolution', neither can anyone now doubt that the Venezuelan's followers could try to take advantage of the current situation. For this reason Spain and the U.S. have committed themselves to coordinate actions; the support of a reasonable solution to the institutional crisis in Ecuador is essential."
"Crisis In Ecuador"
Business daily Gaceta de los Negocios opined (4/22): "The list of Latin American countries where institutions have been defied and defeated by street actions does not stop growing.... The weakness of the rule of law in this region is clear.... Together with internal factors...we cannot lose sight of the destabilizing actions that manipulate people's indignation--very justified--in order to look after Bolivarian interests.... The so-called Bolivarian integration favored by Chávez lies in the replacement of the rule of law and an attempt to stabilize with 'new ways' that consist of the old usuals: building tyrannies under the cover of the people's will. That is why the foreign policy of countries such as Spain should be coordinated with those of other democracies, starting with the that of the U.S."
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