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Ecuador: The Night of Three Governments December 23, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador Politics, History, Government, Culture, Ecuador Writing, Ecuador: The Night of Three Governments.
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(This is my diary blow by blow account of the events of Jan. 21, 2000.  For weeks the Indigenous and campesino communities, the most politicized sectors in the country, had been planning a massive protest in Quito.  The government responded by blocking highways leading to the capital and searching buses that did get through.  It foolishly thought it could control the situation with such measures.  Despite this act of a desperate government, tens of thousands got through, and, evidencing amazing organizational capacities, found ways to feed and support themselves while living in city parks.  Finally they marched on the Congress building, which was surrounded by the army.  Their response was to surround the army, thus creating an interesting stalemate.  This was broken when some middle level army officers from a local training center, broke through the army lines and allowed the protesters to take over the Congress itself.  The military defenders of the Congress gave no resistance to the forces led by Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez, who apparently had won a high degree of respect within the military.  Once it was confirmed that Mahuad had abandoned the presidency the protesters inside the Congress declared a “Junta of National Salvation,” that consisted of Gutiérrez, the Indigenous leader, Vargas, and the head of the Supreme Court.  I was glued to our small seven inch black and white television for hours on end and watched as all this was telecast live from within the Congress.  My friend Gerard Coffey, who was inside with the protestors, told me that the tension there was palpable, given that there was good reason to believe that they might be attacked by the Ecuadorian Army at any moment.)

 

Subj: Re: From Ecuador Bulletin 3

 

On Sat, 22 Jan 2000 10:13:46 EST Rogerholla@aol.com wrote:

 

At 3:00 a spokesperson for the Joint Command of the armed forces announced that the joint command had withdrawn support from President Mahuad and were requesting his resignation.  This same general (the brother of retired General Paco Moncayo) was sent to give the president the news and apparently was put in charge of the Presidential Palace and the President’s security.

 

Minutes later the President went on television with the standard “never say die” speech.  If I had a million sucres (forty US dollars) for every time today I heard the words “democratic order” and “constitutional order” coming from the mouths of those in power, I would be a rich man.  According to the elites who defend “constitutional democracy” at all costs, he disorder and suffering caused by government policy apparently is legitimized by being sanctioned democratically and constitutionally, even if replete with corruption and antidemocratic administration.

 

Then from the halls of Congress, Antonio Vargas, the Indigenous leader, announced that within an hour or two they would be on their way to take the Presidential Palace.  Within minutes it was announced that the President and his aides had evacuated the Palace for a “more secure” location in Quito.  Unconfirmed rumors have him on the way to the airport.

 

10 PM: The Minister of Government insists that Mahuad is being protected by the military at a base in Quito and still has no intention of resigning. Meanwhile, it appears that more than ten thousand protesters have surrounded the Presidential Palace while their leaders are inside negotiating alongside the rebel Colonels with the Joint Command of the Armed Forces.  Apparently, Paco Moncayo [the head of the Joint Chiefs, and future Mayor of Quito] and ex-Supreme Court Justice, Carlos Solórzano (who sent ex-Vice President Alberto Dahik packing to Costa Rica and who has a populist profile) are also present.

 

In Guayaquil, two factions of the army are in confrontation over control of the government buildings.  There are street demonstrations, traffic blockages, car burnings and attempted take overs of government buildings all over the country.

 

One TV station is reporting a poll taken on the streets that has 65% of the

sample supporting the rebels (Indigenous and campesinos backed by the junior officers), 6% supporting President Mahuad, and 80% are against a dictatorship.

 

12:00 am (Jan 22)

 

They have emerged from the confab at the Presidential Palace (actually the Palace of Government) and given a press conference with the following results: with the full support of the full military command, a three man junta has been formed to rule the country and form a government.  General Carlos Mendoza, the current Chief of the Joint Military Command, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Solórzano, and CONAIE [the nation-wide Indigenous organization] president, Antonio Vargas.  At the news conference Mendoza took the lead, but made it clear that the three had equal authority.  Solórzano spoke to the legality of the junta and Vargas gave his remarks first in Quichua then in Spanish.  It was suggested that Colonel Gutiérrez might be the new government’s Minister of Government.  The question of what will happen to Mahuad was evaded (there is a rumor he is at the airport).  Solórzano suggested that with such strong popular support and the full backing of the military, the US would have no choice but to recognize the new regime.

 

At this moment it appears that, because of the decision of the military, Mahuad and the Congress have been left out to dry.  I guess we’ll know more when we wake up tomorrow morning.

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