Ecuador accuses US official of taking police files February 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: colonialism, Ecuador, Ecuador Government, Ecuador politics, ecuador u.s. relations, maria eugenia tello, Rafael Correa, roger hollander
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Maria Eugenia Tello
GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa, on Tuesday accused a U.S. diplomat he expelled of taking computers and sensitive police files from the country.
Correa threw out the embassy official on Saturday, saying the low-level diplomat had meddled in police affairs by trying to handpick officers involved in a U.S. aid project.
“A foreign embassy official takes computers with him … and information from the national police. We won’t stand for this. We will investigate and make a complaint,” Correa told navy officers in the city of Guayaquil.
“The days of colonialism are behind us,” said Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who faces re-election in April.
Correa, a U.S.-trained economist, has generally had good relations with the United States, but political analysts say he could bolster his poll ratings by taking a tough line on what he deems as foreign interference.
U.S. authorities have downplayed the incident, saying the official, Armando Astorga, had already left the Andean nation in January as part of a normal staff rotation.
Carlos Cordova, a pollster with Cedatos-Gallup said, “This shows you that Correa will use every tool to gain votes for his re-election. He wants to inflate the nationalistic spirit and portray himself as a strong leader.”
Many Ecuadoreans are critical of U.S. policy in Latin America, particularly Washington’s military aid to neighboring Colombia to fight a four-decade guerrilla war that sometimes spills across the border.
The United States is Ecuador’s main trading partner and the destination for much of its oil and banana exports.
Ecuador: A Philosophical Analysis December 23, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador Politics, History, Government, Culture, Ecuador Writing, Ecuador: A Philosophical Analysis.
Tags: campesino, Ecuador, ecuador analysis, Ecuador Government, Ecuador history, Ecuador politics, eugene gogol, gotha program, IMF, indigenous, Latin America, lucio gutierrez, luis macas, manta military base, marx, marxist humanist, mpd, neoliberal, nina picari, Pachakutik, roger hollander, wilma salgado
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(My political writing, I freely admit, has a schizophrenic character. When I am attempting to place an article in a mainstream publication, I have no choice to try to “lay it between the lines.” My major achievement in this respect was the oped piece of mine on free trade published by the Los Angeles Times in October of 2005. In writing to “family and friends,” I am much more free to be explicit about my political revolutionary socialism, but I tone it down there as well – don’t want to turn people off with Marxist terminology [sadly, and for reasons which are too complicated to go into here, this is the reality]. However, I often write for the Marxist-Humanist periodical, “News and Letters,” and it is here where I feel under no compulsion to censor myself. See for yourself the difference in style and content in these various efforts.)
ECUADOR ANALYSIS (June 2003) for News and Letters
What is occurring in Ecuador today is a classic example of the fate of philosophically rudderless progressive political movements. It is characterized by the confusion and bickering within the ranks of the governing coalition (the Patriotic Society Party, organized by Gutiérrez, and Pachakutik, the political wing of the Indigenous movement,), but, above all, by the opportunism of the Right and its capacity to exploit philosophic debility through cooptation.
Colonel Gutiérrez’s dramatic and decisive electoral victory of November 2002 was nothing less than an expression of massive popular discontent with the neo-Liberal status quo. His position as a viable presidential candidate in the first place arose directly and exclusively from his support of the aborted popular coup d’etat of January 2000, that was the culmination of decades of intense political organizing within the Indigenous communities. The uprising was in response to a government that had overseen a major banking collapse which caused the loss of capital equal to the nation’s annual GNP and that was in the process of accelerating the implementation of the IMF’s economic plan for the country. The demands of the movement (which was lead by the Indigenous and campesino communities but included the support of labor and other progressive social organizations) included a moratorium on payment of the external debt, and end to privatization, freezing utilities costs, fundamental restructuring of the nation’s political institutions through popular assemblies, and the reclaiming of sovereignty over the military base at Manta, which is in the hands of the U.S. military.
Both Pachakutik, which was in formal electoral coalition with Gutiérrez, and the Marxist-Leninist backed Movement for Popular Democracy (MPD), which backed the Gutiérrez candidacy, based their support on written and signed agreements that reflected the demands of January 2000.
Gutiérrez’s drift to the right began immediately after his stunning victory in the first electoral round (the pundits had him coming in fourth or fifth). As with so many progressive politicians who begin to taste real power, he felt the immediate need to “assure” the investing community that had nothing to worry about from a Gutiérrez presidency. Many of his supporters, with the naiveté that is a product of philosophical vagueness, saw this as a necessary “tactical” maneuver. They should not have been surprised, however, when his first act as president was to worship at the shrine of Bush and the IMF.
Five months into the Gutiérrez presidency, both the government and, to a degree, the Indigenous and social movements, are in a state of disarray. There have been scandals, nepotism, corruption, ministerial resignations, and a total of thirty-one strikes and work stoppages that have included teachers, public health workers, civil servants and oil workers in the public sector, and workers in agriculture and transportation in the private sector.
The advancement of the neo-Liberal economic agenda and the alignment with Bush and Uribe on the Colombia question are now fixed policies. The pathetic ideology that Gutiérrez employs to mask his treasonous adventure speaks of including all Ecuadorians in the sharing of power, again a traditional approach when so-called progressives take power (e.g., Papandreou in Greece, Mitterrand in France, the NDP in Ontario, Canada). Thus he has given the socially oriented ministries (education, health, social welfare, etc.) to the progressives and the economic ministries (finance, international trade, etc.) to the Right (the chief of whom is Mauricio Pozo, Minister of the Economy, longtime Central Bank functionary and neo-Liberalism true believer). Guess who has all the power, influence and budget.
There has been some bitter sweetness to all this. Nina Picari of Pachakutik, a prominent and respected Indigenous leader, is Secretary of State, to my knowledge the first Indigenous woman ever to hold such a position anywhere. The sweetness is to see an Indigenous person in traditional dress, representing a nation on the international scene, where she is taking leadership on the question of human right for Indigenous peoples. She is no Colin Powell. The bitterness comes from the fact that she lends credibility to a corrupt government that is certain to taint her own credibility in the future and contribute to disunity within her own movement. The same can be said of long time Indigenous leader and fighter, Luis Macas of Pachakutik, who as Minister of Agriculture is making attempts to stop the flow of communal lands to agribusiness; and Wilma Salgado, who, as head of the banking insurance entity, is taking concrete steps to bring a degree of justice to those who lost their life savings.
Those who integrate themselves with apparently progressive governments or popular fronts usually do so based upon the naïve believe that they can do more “good” from within than from without. What they end up achieving is confusion and conflict within the movements they represent. They fail to recognize that it is the masses in motion, not leaders from above, that initiate fundamental social change. In effect, they separate themselves not only from their initial base support, but also from libratory philosophy.
Marx spoke to this in his scathing critique (Critique of the Gotha Program) of the unification of the two German socialist tendencies (one of which was considered to be Marxist) based upon bourgeois and reformist principles with respect to the questions of labor, nationalism and the state; Marx re-enunciated the essential themes of true liberation from the oppression of capital: “the need to uproot the state machinery, the state form, to pose an international not a national viewpoint, the vision of the nonstate to be, ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,’ and the inseparable relation of theory and organization …”[i] The adoption of
programs of contradictory and incorrect principles render such tendencies which adopt them at
best irrelevant and at worst counter-revolutionary.
Pachakutik has recently reaffirmed its support of and participation in the Gutiérrez government.
It is doubtful, in the light of those who have the real power within the government, that this will be
sustained much longer. However, the longer it is, the greater the damage to popular movements.
[i] Gogol, Eugene, “The Concept of Other in Latin American Liberation: Fusing Emancipatory Philosophic Thought and Social Revolt,” (Lexington Books, 2002) p. 363. I highly recommend this important book by the former managing editor of News and Letters. It takes a sweeping view of the Latin American scene, and speaks to the various dead end paths taken by failed revolutionaries, from Cuba to Nicaragua to Central America, etc.
Ecuador: The Siege Goes On December 23, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador Politics, History, Government, Culture, Ecuador Writing, Ecuador: The Siege Goes On.
Tags: Chile, Ecuador, Ecuador history, Ecuador politics, eucador government, g7, gustavo noboa, IMF, indigenous, Latin America, lucio gutierrez, mahuad, milton friedman, neoliberal, pinochet, privatization, quito, roger hollander
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(After Mahuad was ousted and Noboa took over, a period of stunned silence over the betrayed near-revolution ensued. However, with the same economic policies in place, protest was sure to break out soon; and when it did, I was “on the spot” to report to family and friends. Maybe here is a good place for me to define what is meant by neo-Liberal economic policies. We can trace modern day neo-Liberalism back to the 1973 (Sept. 11!) U.S. (CIA) supported, Pinochet led, military coup against the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. Pinochet brought in Chicago Economist Milton Friedman to restructure the country’s economy. It was what is usually and euphemistically referred to as “belt-tightening,” when a more apt metaphor, in my opinion, would be “neck strangulation.” I compare it to that era in medicine when it was thought that cures could be achieved through blood-letting. The major elements of neo-Liberal economics are threefold: privatization of utilities, natural resources and whatever else the government can get away with selling to the private sector; reduction in government funded social programs (health, welfare, education) and employee benefits; and the elimination of barriers to capital crossing national boundaries (i.e., free trade) with a concomitant bolstering of the barriers that prevent human beings from crossing from one border to another. These policies are usually accompanied by bank “reforms” that usually end up in major scandals where national treasuries are looted and monetary policies that serve a similar function.
We are now almost exactly one year past the failed near revolution of 2000. New protests have broken out.)
Quito, 03 February 2001
Ecuadorian government tries to intimidate Indigenous groups
On the night of Wednesday the 31st of January, a truck full of food draws up to the gates of the
Salesian University in Quito. After a short discussion with two members of Congress, who press the police to let the truck pass, the captain commanding the 30 or so officers blocking the road sends the truck away from the university, and the 7,000 Indigenous men, women, and children lodged there. I only obey order he says, apparently oblivious to the historical implications of the phrase. A European bystander asks the officer if he has ever heard of Adolph Eichmann, the second world war, or the Nazis. The captain shrugs.
In reality, the government strategy has more in common with the middle ages than the Nazis. There are elements of the classic siege. Cut off the water, the food supply, communications, and anything else you can think of. Starve them out. And if they do manage to get out then tear gas them until they run back inside. Fortunately a siege has its lapses, and in this case, before the police can counter, the truck finds another entrance where scores of volunteers speedily unload the cargo of hundred pound sacks of potatoes.
This is the almost warlike state of affairs in Quito, Ecuador, where the Indigenous movement has taken the lead in protesting the harshness of the economic measures imposed by President Noboa; measures which lead an incredible 49% of the work force to leave the country in 2000, at least temporarily, and to look for work in other parts of the world. Generally speaking, the Indigenous communities are the poorest in the country and the recent doubling of the price of cooking gas, and gasoline (which affects the price of everything else) has had a major effect on them. Not that they are alone. The urban poor who have no access to land are even worse off. The only thing saving them is the increased number of jobs available due to the huge migration under way. This is small comfort however, as unemployment rates are still high and even with a job there is no guarantee of sufficient money to cover the basic food and health needs. The latest figures from the National Statistics Institute show that an average family of four has 25% less income than it needs in order to cover its basic needs.
The government, on the other hand, is determined to show the native people a firm hand, by shooting them if need be, and by imprisoning their leaders. But up to now the strategy hasn’t worked. The shootings and the events in the capital have simply sharpened the resolve of the protesters. Primary roads have been closed in all the major mountain and Amazon provinces, and after a week there are no signs of slacking. Quite the opposite. The closures have now been extended to the secondary and tertiary roads. The army simply doesn’t have the capacity to manage the huge number of people involved in the closings and as Admiral Donoso, the spokesperson for the Military command admits, it’s a war of attrition. The roads are closed, the army opens them up, the native people close them again, etc, etc. It’s not difficult to understand the magnitude of the job; in only one stretch of ten kilometres for instance, one can encounter 15 barricades, always being rebuilt, re-dug, re-lit with burning tires.
Apart from the Chamber of Commerce of the Coastal Provinces (read: power groups from Guayaquil, the principal port) who demand even harsher measures (the “iron fist”) for those who block roads, almost everyone is calling for dialogue. The problem is that it’s not readily apparent how the two sides can talk on the principal issue of economic policy, which the government sees as its (and the IMF’s) sole reserve. While commissions have been formed to broker the talks, it seems unlikely that the native people will accept dismantling the barricades and settling for a series of talks. They’ve been taken in before (amongst others, by ex president Mahuad who never complied with his promises), and will therefore be extremely wary of abandoning the uprising without firm and controllable promises.
President Noboa, on the other hand, has virtually no room to move. Not applying the economic measures means not receiving the money from the IMF and other multilateral agencies (or debt swaps from the G7) that according to standard economic theory the country needs. Money which will serve to maintain, if not solvency (which is impossible) at least the fiction of solvency, thereby keeping the doors open for new credits with which to pay the old, and thus helping maintain another fiction, that of a healthy global financial system.
Although the government has backed off somewhat in the last few days (food and water are now entering the university) the two sides are still far apart. Given the context, the most likely outcome is that the government will keep on denying the position that it’s in, hoping that by maintaining a firm stance, or by praying to the virgin of Guadalupe, they can pull themselves out of the fire. Failing this, or a sudden about face in policy, the regime will probably collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Its allies do not appear to be too solid. The army is apparently divided; the Air force Chief has told the president that he should negotiate. Only the navy and the police are firmly on side. How long this can continue is anyone’s guess.
(The Noboa government did survive to serve out the full term of ex President Mahuad. In the 2002 presidential elections, Colonel Gutiérrez, the hero of the 2000 uprisings, came out of nowhere to soundly defeat banana magnate Alvaro Noboa. He had formed a new political party and was supported by the Indigenous community and the traditional left. His election raised high hopes. We shall see if those hopes came to fruition.)
Ecuadorian Commission Alleges C.I.A. Infiltration of Ecuadorian Police and Military November 1, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: CIA in Latin America, Colombia FARC, Colombia invasion Ecuador, Colombian military, Ecuador C.I.A. infiltration, Ecuador Government, Ecuador military, Ecuador police, Ecuador politics, Ecuador politics government, Latin America, Latin America military, Latin America politics government, Raul Reyes, roger hollander, U.S. military support to Colombia
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An Ecuadorian government agency, the Commission to Invistage Police and Military Intelligence Services (Comisión para la Investigación de los Servicios de Inteligencia Militares y Policiales) has issued a report accusing the United States government of illegal interference with its internal security (El Universo, Guayaquil, November 1, 2008).
The Commission’s report has been backed by Ecuador’s Minister of Defence, Javier Ponce, who has called for an investigation to determine those responsible for turning information over to the C.I.A. Ponce further supports the Commission’s eleven recommendations, which include the restructuring of the nation’s intelligence apparatus. He also has called for the dismissal from Ecuador’s intelligence service those who were directly involved with the actions of Colonel Mario Pazmiño. Colonel Pazmiño, former Director of Ecuador’s intelligence service, was accused of withholding from the government intelligence about Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorian with alleged connection with the Colombia guerrilla army, FARC (Aisalla was killed earlier this year along with 15 others in a Colombian military raid on a FARC camp within Ecuador’s territory where they successfully assassinated FARC number two leader, Raúl Reyes). It is assumed that he had passed this information on to the C.I.A.
The Commission’s report alleges that the Ecuadorian Police’s Special Investigations Unit (Unidad de Investigaciones Especiales – UIES) is financed and controlled by the U.S Ambassador to Ecuador and that Ecuadorian military officers acted in the interest of the United States in order to conceal information, make evidence disappear, and confuse the government with respect to the Colombian incursion into Ecuador’s territory in March.
Ecuador’s National Police Commander, Jaime Hurtado, has denied that his organization turns over information to the C.I.A., and admits only that a collaboration does exist between the Ecuadorian National Police and foreign authorities, especially with respect to anti-drug investigations. He added that he had no information about Ecuadorian police turning over information [to the United States], but should such evidence come to light, he would take the proper steps against those responsible.
Heather Hodges, the United States Ambassador to Ecuador has refused to comment on matters of intelligence, but she did add that the U.S. has and will continue to work with the Ecuadorian Police and Military on matters of mutual security.
Ecuador Overwhelmingly Adopts Progressive Constitution September 29, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in About Ecuador, Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: Alianza Pais Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador Consititution, Ecuador Constitutent Assembly, Ecuador Correa, Ecuador Election, Ecuador Government, Ecuador politics, Ecuador Politics and History, Ecuador Progressive Nationalism, Ecuador referendum, Rafael Correa, roger hollander
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Roger Hollander/September 29, 2008
In voting to approve a new progressive and nationalistic constitution, the vast majority of Ecuadorians have again scored a major victory against the traditional right and the capitalist “owners” of the country.
Last year an unprecedented 81% of Ecuadorians had voted to create a Constituent Assembly with a mandate to propose a new Magna Carta for the country, and then gave the supporters of President Rafael Correa a healthy majority in the Assembly. Now, in a referendum held ysterday, September 28, by an overwhelming margin of nearly three to one, the people of Ecuador voted to adopt the new constitution.
The new constitution provides for the protection of the nation’s natural resources (including land and water), creates a pluri-national state in which the rights of women, racial minorities, and Indigenous communities are protected. It places a major emphasis on human rights; allows for civil union for gays and Lesbians; free health care for seniors, women who are pregnant and nursing, and those with major illness such as cancer and AIDs; and free public education up to the university level. It prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases within its borders (Correa has already made it clear that the large U.S. airbase in the major port of Manta will be dismantled when the treaty that created it expires in 2009).
Although the new constitution was put together in haste and is an unwieldy document of more than 200 pages (and it remains to be seen if the government can generate the financial resources or has the capacity to create the institutional infrastructure to comply with its objectives in a timely manner), its approval by the Ecuadorian masses represents another victory for Rafael Correa, a U.S. educated economist who refers to himself as a “Christian Socialist.” It provides a base for continued reforms aimed at the various forms of capitalist imperialism that have plagued the country since its inception. This includes a determination to re-distribute wealth through taxation and subsides, protective tariffs for local industry, and fair labor laws. The government already has shown a determination to challenge unfair international debt and to expel industries that violate its laws and damage the environment. Although the government is not without its internal critics, it is by and large supported by all the progressive social movements in the country, along with the Indigenous communities and organized labor.
What is perhaps most astonishingly refreshing is to see nearly seven out of every ten Ecuadorians say “Yes” to a constitutional initiative that resoundingly rejects the corrupt traditional political parties of the right, the financial and capitalist industrial sector, the traditional economic oligarchies, and the reactionary hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. This in spite of a Rovian type campaign against the constitution that was based upon distortion and fear; raised the spectre of dictatorship, rampant abortion, homosexuality and godlessness; and which had the support of the majority of the media, the Church, the banks, the industrial sector, the political pundits, and the far right Social Christian Party, which has ruled on the Coast of Ecuador for decades (I find it fascinating to ponder why Ecuadorians seem to be more “Rove-proof” than North Americans).
This, of course does not mean that the capitalist class and the right are acknowledging defeat. As with the four separatist provinces in Bolivia, which have brought that country to the brink of civil war through U.S. supported sabotage and right-wing terrorism, Jaime Nebot, Mayor of Guayaquil and leader of the Social Christian Party has threatened to initiate a separatist movement (which is specifically prohibited by the new constitution) and has made it clear that continued resistance to progressive reform will continue with a vengeance. However, his hand has been weakened significantly by the overwhelming “Yes” vote at the national level, and even a slim plurality over the “No” vote both in Guayaquil and the broader coastal Province of Guayas.
All this also does not mean that Correa necessarily understands the law of value and is prepared to lead a frontal attack against capital itself. He is radically progressive in a nationalist sense, but not a socialist in the Marxist sense. Nonetheless, he symbolically heads a movement that represents the masses of Ecuadorians who are passionate for fundamental change against the corruption and plundering of the nation’s wealth, which has left a legacy of poverty and hunger. It is a movement that is not going to rest until a genuine humanistic society replaces that of inherent capitalist exploitation.
Elections in the U.S., Canada and Ecuador, and the Influence of Karl Rove September 24, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in About Canada, About Ecuador, About Repubicans, Canada, U.S. Election 2008.
Tags: Canadian Election, Conservative Party, Ecuador Consititution, Ecuador Constitutent Assembly, Ecuador Election, Ecuador politics, Ecuador referendum, Ecuadorian right, election 2008, Karl Rove, Karl Rove stragegy, lies, manipulation, McCain and Karl Rove, Palin and Karl Rove, Republican Party, roger hollander, Rove, spin, U.S. election
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I have ties with three countries, the United States, Canada and Ecuador, which happen to be — all three– in the midst of election campaigns.
A single word comes to mind: Rove. As in Karl Rove. In the States Rove and his protégés are firmly in control of the McCain campaign. And it’s all about Sarah Palin, who combines the characteristics of motherhood and apple pie at the same time as she comes across, as one commentator described her, as a toned down porn star. Issues be damned. It’s about Sarah, right to life (for the foetus if not for American soldiers and Iraqi and Afghani civilians), gay marriage, flexing American muscle in the face of terrorism, taking advantage of every vestige of racism that remains strong in the American psyche, and, of course, playing the religion card. It’s a form of triumphalism that would make Joseph Goebbels proud.
In Canada, where a former Prime Minister, once famously said elections are no place to discuss issues, Conservative PM Stephen Harper has not forgotten the infamous Willie Horton commercial that sunk Michael Dukakis in the 1988 U.S. presidential election. He is promoting life sentences for 14 year old gang members (with parole eligibility after 25 years – let no one ever say that Harper doesn’t have a heart). In an attempt to paint his opponents as latte drinking, quiche eating elites, he has justified his cutting of funding to arts and culture because ordinary folks don’t care about the arts. He went on to add: “average Canadians have no sympathy for ‘rich’ artists who gather at galas to whine about their grants.”
But it is in Ecuador, which is in the midst of a referendum to approve or reject a new progressive Constitution, that even Karl Rove could learn a thing or two. The “No” campaign has stooped to lows that the master of lies, distortion and spin might not dare to descend. The Ecuadorian right, along with its conservative allies in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, are shouting at the top of their collective voice (with the support of most Ecuadorian media) that the under the proposed new Constitution, the State will promote abortion, homosexuality, dictatorship, poverty and hunger (including the latter two is bitterly ironic in that those who for generation have held power and are desperate not to relinquish it, are the very ones responsible for the high degree of poverty and hunger that exist in the country in the first place).
Riding through the streets of Guayaquil, the nations largest city and principal seaport, I saw scores of humble apparently home-made “No” signs. I said to myself that the “No” campaign must be somehow getting to ordinary people. On closer look, however, I discovered that the signs, which appeared to be clumsily made with ball point pens, were in fact mass produced lithographs. You might try that one some day, Karl.
No here is what for me is the most interesting irony. In the U.S. and Canada, the Rovite candidates are poised to celebrate victory. In Canada, Conservative PM Stephen Harper seems to be on the verge of converting his minority government into a majority one. In the States, McCain still holds a slight edge over Obama, despite the fact that the popularity of the Republican Party is at an all-time low. These campaigns are far from over, and could still turn around in favor of more moderate parties.
In Ecuador, however, despite the heavily financed campaign for the “No” vote coming from the traditional rightist parties and their corporate sponsors, and despite the backing of most of the media and political pundits for a “No” vote; the “Yes” campaign appears to hold a solid majority. The majority of Ecuadorians, who live in a country where the levels of illiteracy and under education far exceed those of the United States and Canada, somehow have found a way to see through the lies and manipulations and have continued to support the Alianza País Party (which has created the proposed new Constitution) and its President, Rafael Correa, who have maintained high degrees of popularity despite constant attacks from the right and the media.
There is a powerful slogan that is often used at political rallies: “El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido” (“the people, united, will never be defeated”). In Ecuador, this seems to be developing into reality. I have hopes for the same in the two North American alleged democracies.
More on the Bolivia Crisis from Newsweek September 18, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: Bolivia civil strife, Bolivia civil war, Bolivia politics and government, Bolivia Revolt of the Rich, Bolivia Separatism, Ecuador Consititution, Ecuador politics, Ecuador referendum, Katanga Province in the Congo, roger hollander
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Some of us remember the separatist in the mineral rich Katanga Province in the Congo in the 1960s. The elites of that province waged a campaign to destabilize the country in the name of regional autonomy in an attempt to destroy economic reforms that would have benefited the poor.
It is with a sense of deja vu that we see what is happening today in Bolivia and Ecuador. The Newsweek article below tells the story in Bolivia in a most comprehensive way. As well, just today, Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, issued a warning with respect to his country, which is holding a referendum on a new progressive constitution on September 28. Although it is widely believed that the people of Ecuador will overwhelmingly vote in favor of this new constitution, the Province of Guayas, which contains the country’s largest city and major seaport, Guayaquil, has been ruled for decades by the ultra right Social Christian Party (which is neither social nor Christian!) on behalf of the economic power structure. It’s Mayor, Jaime Nebot, is leading a campaing to reject the constitution and is supported by the leadership of the Catholic Church, which is falsely claiming that the constitution is pro-abortion. Correa rightly smells the shit in the wind and advises that if the population of Guayas Province votes NO, Guayaquil is likeley to become the center of a campaign of destabilization similar to what is happening in Bolivia. As a resident of this area I can tell you that the Right and the Church have left no stones unturned in their campaing of lies and distortion. This included a physical attack on the President organized by rightist students at the Catholic University in an attempt to create havoc and embarassment, and portray the president as anti-student. Nevertheless, I see many signs that this campaign is not going to succeed, and I expect a narrow vote in favor of the constitution even in Guayaquil, where it appears that many are seeing through the base tactics of the Social Christians and their righist allies. This will be very interesting to watch.
REVOLT OF THE RICH
Michael Miller, Newsweek, Sept. 13, 2008
Opponents of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. (Photo: Dad Galdieri / AP)
Despite winning last month’s recall election, President Evo Morales faces escalating violence from protesters who don’t want to share the nation’s natural-gas wealth.
Relations between Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and the country’s wealthy easterners were tense from the start. Since Morales’s election in 2005, the eastern provinces, known as the “Media Luna,” or half moon, which have grown rich on natural gas, have fought bitterly over a new constitution that would redistribute some of that wealth to the western provinces. The opposition has recently waged disruptive strikes. Protests began to take a more violent turn after Morales trounced the opposition in last month’s recall election. This week at least eight Bolivians were killed in clashes. Opposition groups blew up part of a natural gas pipeline and vandalized government offices, causing millions of dollars worth of damage. They have also succeeded in disrupting trade with Brazil and Argentina, which rely on Bolivia’s natural gas.
Relations between Bolivia and the United States have quickly deteriorated as well. Bolivia expelled U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg for “conspiring against democracy” and in response the Bush administration sent the Bolivian ambassador in Washington packing. In a show of support, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president and staunch Evo ally, ejected the American envoy from Caracas. On Friday, Morales sent troops into the eastern provinces to restore order. To find out where it’s all headed, Newsweek’s Michael Miller talked with economist and Bolivia expert Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
Newsweek: How serious is the fallout between the United States and Bolivia? I think it’s serious. I think that this thing was coming for a long time. There had been a number of incidents. There was the incident with the Peace Corps and the Fulbright scholar [asked to spy by the U.S. Embassy]. And then there are the meetings between the ambassador and the opposition. Obviously he’s the ambassador: he should meet with everybody. But the way he did and the timing of it was considered unfriendly. I think you have a bigger structural problem, which is that you have USAID funding groups in Bolivia but they won’t disclose who they are. They are doing this now in Venezuela too. These are polarized countries. So on that basis both of these governments [Bolivia and Venezuela] just assume that Washington is doing what it has always done, which is to fund the people that they are sympathetic to.
How much influence do eastern Bolivia’s large estate owners have? What kind of pressure do opposition groups exert in Bolivia?
Quite a bit. That’s what this conflict is really about. You have the most concentrated land ownership in almost the entire world in Bolivia, with around two thirds of the land owned by six tenths of one percentnot even one percentof the landowners. Obviously Evo Morales ran on a platform of land reform. He is not talking about confiscating huge amounts of land, but there is going to be some redistribution. There is the hydrocarbon revenue, which goes disproportionately to the Media Luna states with the opposition governors. So those are the two big economic reasons for this conflict.
Which one, land or hydrocarbons, is really the central issue? That is a tough question. The hydrocarbons are more immediate because [the government has] already begun some redistribution there. Morales has not touched the landowners. So I guess you could say that [hydrocarbons] are the bigger issue. I was in Bolivia a couple months ago and I met with the Central Bank and the ministries. The government has $ 7 billion in reserves right now in the Central Bank, which is an awful lot [considering] their whole GDP is only $13.2 billion. Most of it is owned by the prefectures, the provinces, so they have a lot of money. So it is hard to explain why they would raise such a fuss over the government wanting to take a small part of that and use it for some pensions for people over 60, which also goes to their own residents.
How does this tie into the recent recall election in Bolivia? Wasn’t that election meant to resolve this impasse between the Morales government and the opposition provinces?
It did show some things. First of all, Morales got 67 percent of the vote, which is as big as you get in politics in the world without fixing the election. And the other thing it showed is if you look at the Media Luna provinces, while it’s true that the opposition won, the vote for Morales also went up enormously as compared to what he got in 2005. So his support, his mandate, really increased quite a bit since the 2005 election. What you are seeing right now is that the people who could not win anything at the ballot box are trying to use other means. They are cutting off the gas, which is very serious.
What are the financial consequences of opposition groups disrupting Bolivia’s natural gas pipeline?
It’s huge. It’s more of a problem for Brazil than it is for Bolivia: they get half their gas from Bolivia and more than half in the industrial region of Sao Paolo. For Bolivia it is quite a lot of money. It is a $100 million estimated just to fix [the gas pipeline] and $8 million per day of revenue lost as well. But it is even worse than that because the opposition can really sabotage the whole economy. Everything that the government is doing in terms of the next five years as far as extending gas supply to Brazil and Argentina, if Bolivia can’t be a reliable gas supplier then those countries are going to have to look elsewhere. So it is a form of serious sabotage. The [Morales government] is calling it “terrorism.”
Will Morales’s mandate enable him to act more forcefully toward the breakaway provinces or is he going to have to wait for the constitutional referendum in December?
I think he is going to have to do something. The government has been very pacifist and I think they don’t get enough credit for that. Most governments in the world would have sent in the military in force and a lot of people would have been killed. He has been extremely restrained. He has tried to avoid violence at all costs and the opposition has been emboldened by that. They just keep escalating. Now they are taking it to a different stage and I don’t know how much more the government can just try to ignore it. They really depend on these gas exports, as do Brazil and Argentina. Brazil issued a statement the other day that said they will not tolerate an interruption in the constitutional order in Bolivia. Whether that means they will send troops, I don’t know.
Does this have a financial impact on the United States? Or is the decision to expel the Bolivian ambassador simply a quid pro quo response? Is there real money at stake for the United States?
I don’t think there is really anything at stake for the United States. If [by antagonizing Morales] they push Chavez too far, there is always the chance that he could cut off oil. But it is unlikely.
What type of fallout will there from Morales’ use of troops in the eastern provinces?
It depends on what the [government forces do] and on their capacity for crowd control and using non-lethal weapons. Look at what happened prior to Morales: they are still trying to extradite the former president [Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada] for all the people who were killed in the demonstrations back then. Morales has been on the other side of this and he knows that things can get out of control. So he is trying to do everything to avoid that but it’s not easy when you have an opposition that is not operating by the same rules.
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, DC.
Stealing Elections for Dummies: the Referendum in Ecuador September 11, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in About Ecuador, Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: Ecuador Consititution, Ecuador Constitutent Assembly, Ecuador Government, Ecuador politics, Ecuador referendum, Karl Rove stragegy, roger hollander, Stealing Elections
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Stealing Elections for Dummies
©Roger Hollander, 2008
You will, of course, recognize the author of “Stealing Elections for Dummies,” a man whose name will go down in infamy for his gift to the American people and the world of none other than George W. Bush.
I have just returned for another stint in Ecuador, and if Karl Rove is not here in the flesh, his spirit certainly has arrived to haunt an important election. For nearly a year an elected Constituent Assembly has been at work to hammer out a new Constitution for the country, one that will, if adopted, mark the beginning of a new era of government. The thrust of the proposed new Constitution would be to create government where priority is given to social justice and human rights, in a country where poverty, economic inequality and corruption have ruled since time immemorial.
A nation-wide referendum will be held on September 28 to either accept or reject the proposed new Constitution. Campaigns for “Sí” and “No” are in full swing. The left-progressive government of President Rafael Correa along with allied political parties and virtually every civil social movement are hard at work to promote the “Yes” vote. The ruling oligarchy and the traditional center and right parties are desperate to achieve a negative result.
And this is where students of the fine art of Karl Rove come into play. Although the Constituent Assembly worked diligently to put together a draft Constitution that deals with the economy, natural resources, health, education, culture, provincial autonomy, the military, etc.; the “No” campaign is talking (yelling, screaming) about only two issues. You guessed it … gays and abortion. In a country that is over 90% Roman Catholic.
The new Constitution would define marriage as that between a man and a woman; but it does allow for the equivalence of civil unions for gays. “No” campaign bumper stickers boldly carry sweet slogans like “No to Faggots.”
But an alien visiting Ecuador right now might thing there is a referendum on nothing other than abortion. The new Constitution protects the sanctity of life beginning with conception. However, it allows for the right of families to limit the number of children, which in essence gives legitimacy to birth control; but it goes further to state the abortion is not considered a legitimate form of birth control. This somehow is not good enough for the Catholic Church leaders in the country, who have allied themselves with the political right in the “No” camp.
By far the most ubiquitous “No” campaign slogan is a simple “No to Abortion.”
Such strategies in the U.S, along with other nefarious tactics (such as denying voting rights to minorities who would likely vote Democratic and outright manipulation of electronic voting where there is no paper trail) have worked for Professor Karl Rove and his eager Republican students; and the McCain/Palin campaign has already began to clobber Barak Obama with what is tried and true.
The same “consultants” who advise the Republican Party in the U.S. also made there way to Mexico in 2006, and majority opinion in Latin America is that the presidential victory of rightist Felipe Calderón over progressive reformer López Obrador by less than one hundredth of one percent was another example of electoral thievery.
In Ecuador, however, where the young charismatic and progressive Rafael Correa came virtually out of nowhere to win the presidency in 2006; and where the referendum to hold a Constituent Assembly to restructure the nation’s political system was supported by a whopping 80% of the population; and where the supporters of Correa won over two thirds of the Constituent Assembly seats; a victory for the “Yes” campaign is almost universally expected to overcome the lies and distortions and approve the new Constitution. We will know on September 28.
Assuming this to be the likely outcome, it is nice to know that somewhere in the world, even in the political backwater of a small country such as Ecuador, with its population of only 12 million, the wisdom of ordinary people can see through the manipulations of those powerful interests that have kept them in poverty and misery for such a long time.