[News] Ecuador: Life brings surprises

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Tue Oct 5 10:13:32 EDT 2010



Ecuador: Life brings surprises

http://machetera.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/ecuador-life-brings-surprises/

A Note About the Failed Coup in Ecuador - 
<http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=1622>español

Atilio A. Boron

Translation: David Brookbank

1. What happened Thursday in Ecuador?

There was an attempted coup d’etat.

It was not, as various Latin America media 
reported, an “institutional crisis”, as if what 
happened had been a jurisdictional conflict 
between the executive and the legislature rather 
than an open insurrection by one branch of the 
executive, the National Police, whose members 
make up a small army of 40,000 men, against the 
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of 
Ecuador, who is none other than the legitimately 
elected president.  Neither was it as U.S. Under 
Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs 
Arturo Valenzuela claimed, “an act of police 
insubordination”.  Would it have been 
characterized this way if the equivalent of the 
Ecuadoran National Police in the U.S. had beaten 
and physically assaulted Barack Obama, injuring 
him?  Or if they had kidnapped him and held him 
in custody for 12 hours in a police hospital 
until a special army commando unit liberated him 
following a fierce gun battle?  Certainly 
not.  But given that we are talking about a Latin 
American leader, what in the U.S. would sound 
like an intolerable aberration is made to appear like a schoolyard prank here.

Generally speaking, all the media oligopolies 
offered a distorted version of what occurred 
yesterday, carefully avoiding talking about an 
attempted coup.  Instead they referred to it as a 
“police uprising” which, from any perspective, 
converts Thursday’s events into a relatively 
insignificant anecdote.  It is an old rightwing 
ploy, always interested in minimizing the 
importance of the outrages committed by its 
supporters and magnifying the errors and problems 
of its adversaries.  For that reason it is worth 
remembering the words of president Rafael Correa 
in the early hours of Friday morning when he 
characterized the events as a “conspiracy” to perpetrate a “coup d’état”.

A “conspiracy” because, as was more than evident 
on Thursday, there were other actors who 
demonstrated their support for the coup as it was 
underway:  Was it not elements of the Ecuadoran 
Air Force – and not the National Police – that 
paralyzed the Quito International Airport and the 
small airfield used for regional flights?  And 
were there not groups of politicians who took to 
the streets and plazas to support the coup 
leaders?  Was not ex-president Lucio Gutierrez’s 
own lawyer one of the fanatics who tried to 
forcibly enter into the installations of Ecuador 
National Television? Didn’t Jaime Nebot, the 
mayor of Guayaquil and a major rival of President 
Correa, claim that this was a power struggle 
between an authoritarian, despotic character, 
Correa, and a sector of the police, mistaken in 
their methodology but justified in their 
complaints?  This false equivalency between the 
two parties to the conflict was an indirect 
confession of his complacency about current 
events and his deep desire to be free of this – 
until now at least – unassailable political enemy.

And don’t even mention the lamentable reversal by 
the “indigenous” movement Pachakutik, which in 
the middle of the crisis made public its call to 
the “indigenous movement, social movements, and 
democratic political organizations to form a 
united national front to demand the ouster of 
President Correa.”  “Life brings surprises”, said 
Pedro Navaja; but it is not much of a surprise 
when one takes note of the generous aid that 
USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy 
have provided in the last few years to “empower” 
the Ecuadoran people via its parties and social movements.

Conclusion:  It was not a small isolated group 
within the police trying to carry out a coup, but 
rather a group of social and political actors at 
the service of the local oligarchy and 
imperialism, who will never forgive Correa for 
having ordered the removal of the US military 
base at Manta and the audit of Ecuador’s foreign 
debt and its incorporation into ALBA, among many other actions.

Incidentally, the Ecuadoran police have for many 
years, like other forces in the region, been 
trained and supported by their US 
counterpart.  Have they provided some sort of 
civic education or instruction regarding the 
necessary subordination of the armed forces and 
police to civilian authority?  Apparently 
not.  In reality, this makes clear the need to 
put an end, without further delay, to the 
“cooperation” between security forces in the 
majority of the countries in Latin America and 
the United States.  It is already well-known what is taught in those courses.

2.   Why did the coup fail?

Basically for three reasons.  First, because of 
the rapid and effective mobilization of 
significant sectors of the Ecuadoran population 
which, in spite of the danger that existed, took 
to the streets and plazas to manifest their 
support for President Correa.  What happened is 
what should always happen in situations like 
this: the defense of the constitutional order is 
effective to the extent that it is taken up 
directly by the people, acting as protagonists 
and not simply as spectators to the political struggles of their times.

Without this presence of the people in the 
streets and plazas, a fact that Machiavelli had 
pointed out 500 years ago, there is no nation 
that can resist the onslaught of the guardians of 
the old order.  The institutional framework alone 
is incapable of guaranteeing the stability of a 
democratic regime.  Right wing forces are too 
powerful and have dominated that framework for 
centuries.  Only the active and militant presence 
of the people in the streets can thwart the plans of the coup leaders.

Second, the coup was prevented because the 
popular mobilization that developed so quickly 
within Ecuador was accompanied by rapid and 
overwhelming international solidarity that began 
to take action with the very first news of the 
coup and that, among other things, precipitated 
the very opportune convocation of an urgent and 
extraordinary meeting of UNASUR in Buenos 
Aires.  The clear backing received by Correa from 
the governments of South America and several from 
Europe was effective because it made clear that 
the future of the coup makers, had their plans 
ultimately proved successful, would have been 
ostracism as well as political, economic and 
international isolation.  Once again it was shown 
that UNASUR functions and is effective, and that 
the crisis could be resolved, as was that of 
Bolivia in 2008, without intervention in South America by outside interests.

Third, but not least in importance, is the 
courage demonstrated by President Correa, who 
would not give in and who forcefully resisted the 
harassment and the kidnapping to which he had 
been subjected in spite of the evident fact that 
his life was in danger and that, up until the 
last moment, when he left the hospital, his car 
was fired upon with clear intention to 
assassinate him.  Correa showed that he possesses 
the courage required to successfully confront the 
huge political machines.  If he had wavered, if 
he had been intimidated, or if he had indicated 
willingness to submit to the plans of his 
captors, the results would have been 
different.  The combination of these three 
factors – the internal popular mobilization, 
international solidarity, and the president’s 
courage – brought about the isolation of the 
mutineers, weakening them and facilitating the 
rescue operation carried out by the Ecuadoran army.

3.  Could it happen again?

Yes, because the foundations of coups have deep 
roots in Latin American societies and in the 
foreign policy of the United States toward this 
part of the world.  If one reviews the recent 
history of our countries, one sees clearly that 
attempted coups haven taken place in Venezuela 
(2002), Bolivia (2008), Honduras (2009) and 
Ecuador (2010), i.e., in four countries 
characterized by being home to significant 
processes of economic and social transformation, 
as well as  by their membership in ALBA. No 
government of the right has been disrupted by 
this coup phenomenon, whose oligarchic and 
imperialist trademark cannot be hidden.  For just 
that reason, the world leader in human rights 
violations, Alvaro Uribe – with his thousands of 
disappearances, his mass graves, and his “false 
positives” – never had to worry about military 
insurrections against him during his eight years in power.

It is also very unlikely that any of the region’s 
right-wing governments will be victims of 
attempted coups in the coming years.  Of the four 
coups that have occurred in ALBA countries since 
2002, three have failed and only one, the one 
perpetrated in Honduras against Mel Zelaya, was 
successfully carried out. (*)  The significant 
factor there was its surprise execution in the 
middle of the night, a fact that kept the news 
from becoming known until the next morning and 
that prevented the people from having time to 
take control of the streets and plazas.  When the 
people were able to mobilize, it was too late 
because Zelaya had been physically removed from 
the country.  Furthermore, the international 
response was slow and lukewarm, lacking the 
necessary speed and decisiveness that was 
demonstrated in the Ecuadoran case.  The lesson 
to be learned: the rapidity of popular democratic 
reaction is essential to deactivate the sequence 
of actions and processes of the coup makers, a 
sequence which is rarely anything more than the 
unleashing of initiatives which, in the absence 
of obstacles placed in their path, are mutually 
reinforcing.  If the people’s response is not 
immediate, the coup process strengthens, and when 
you want to stop it, it is too late.  And the 
same should be said of international solidarity, 
which to be effective must be immediate and 
unyielding in its defense of the existing political order.

Fortunately these conditions occurred in the 
Ecuadoran case and, as a result, the attempted 
coup failed.  But let’s delude ourselves:  the 
oligarchy and imperialism will again attempt, 
perhaps by other means, to overthrow those 
governments that refuse to surrender to their demands.

(*) The four coups referred to above correspond 
to other ALBA nations.  One must also add to our 
list the case of Haiti, which was not included 
because it was not part of ALBA.  On February 28, 
2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped, also 
in the wee hours of the night, forced onto an 
aircraft chartered by the government of the 
United States, forced to present his 
renunciation, and transported to an African 
country.  As in the other cases, there were also 
huge popular protests in Haiti demanding the 
restoration of Aristide to the presidency, but all to no avail.

Argentinean sociologist and author Atilio Boron is a friend of Tlaxcala.

David Brookbank is a member of 
<http://www.tlaxcala.es/>Tlaxcala, the network of 
translators for linguistic diversity. This 
translation may be reprinted as long as the 
content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.




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