Ecuador’s President Lucio Gutierrez falls

I have much more about Northern Cauca to present here, starting with Hector Mondragon’s article which I translated. But in the meantime Ecuador’s President, Lucio Gutierrez, seems to have gone the way of Bolivia’s Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2003.

What happened? I’ve been receiving reports all week but I haven’t read most of them until tonight. I will below present a rush translation of an article by Eduardo Tamayo for ALAI-Amlatina (a news service).


I have much more about Northern Cauca to present here, starting with Hector Mondragon’s article which I translated. But in the meantime Ecuador’s President, Lucio Gutierrez, seems to have gone the way of Bolivia’s Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2003.

What happened? I’ve been receiving reports all week but I haven’t read most of them until tonight. I will below present a rush translation of an article by Eduardo Tamayo for ALAI-Amlatina (a news service).

Tamayo says that Congress handed power over to Vice President Alfredo Palacio as a result of the multitudinous demonstrations. Palacio said ‘there will be neither pardon nor forgetting’ (the spanish word ‘olvido’ translates very badly into english) for those who violated the constitution (meaning, I am assuming, the demonstrators?) But Tamayo suggests that there are issues deeper than the mere head of government.

The brutal repression of the peaceful march of some 50,000 people on April 19, resulting in 181 injuries and the death due to gas inhalation of photographer Julio Garcia, a 58 year old Chilean-Ecuadorean, who had moved to Ecuador fleeing the Pinochet dictatorship and was a journalist identified with popular sectors, were the proximate causes of the explosions of protest that followed today. The Commander-General of Police, Jorge Poveda, resigned at noon today.

Congress moved to oust the President. The Commander of the Armed Forces, Victor Hugo Rosero, then announced that he was withdrawing support for Gutierrez.

From early this morning, groups of students and indigenous people blocked roads and prevented Gutierrez supporters from other parts of the country from entering the capital. Their chant, like last night, like the one heard in Argentina in 2001, and in Bolivia in 2003, was: ‘Que se vayan todos!’

El Tiempo, Colombia’s daily, reports that Gutierrez left the palace by helicopter. So far, no one knows where he’s ended up (good odds on it being Miami). But Ecuador’s prosecutor-general gave orders that he be prosecuted for culpability in the violence of the demonstrations in the preceding week.

El Tiempo reports that Gutierrez saw Kristie Kenney, the US Ambassador, this morning, before he left.

El Tiempo also provides a bit of context on Gutierrez’s sad story. Gutierrez, it’s worth remembering, came to power at the head of the indigenous movement. He had been involved in the aborted coup against Jamil Mahuad in 2000, when the indigenous surprised everybody and then were betrayed by the military. Gutierrez then rode the same movement to power in elections in 2002, again surprising everyone. He then, perhaps, surprised no one by adopting neoliberal policies and capitulation to US militarism in the region.

That’s not the only reason he lost support in the country. Another El Tiempo story relates how he annulled judgements of the Supreme Court that found against ex-presidents Abdala Bucaram and Gustavo Noboa on charges of corruption. Gutierrez was thus accused of politicizing the judiciary. Also, “his 5 ministers of government in 2 years, his permanent rectification of decisions and his management had left his popularity at 6%, according to polls.” He had managed to keep a conditional majority in Congress. Thus Ecuador has had 7 presidents in 9 years.

Here’s El Tiempo’s chronology of the crisis in Ecuador:

November 2003 – Gutierrez’s first crisis: it’s revealed that in the electoral campaign Gutierrez received $30,000 dollars from the Fernandez Cevallos family. Cesar Fernandez Cevallos was under investigation for narcotrafficking at the time.

September 2004: Opposition in the Congress tried to censure Gutierrez politically for meeting with ex-President Abdala Bucaram and setting up a judicial panel to exonerate him (as occurred).

December 2004: 27 of 31 judges from the Supreme Court are dismissed by Congress at Gutierrez’s behest – Congress opposition declares this unconstitutional.

April 2005: Gutierrez decrees a state of emergency in and around Quito, dissolves the Supreme Court, and asks Congress to revise the law, but he’s out the next day.

More on this, and Toribio, tomorrow.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.