Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 286 | Mayo 2005



Quito Isn’t Managua, Ecuador Isn’t Nicaragua

With calculated demagogy, superficial analysis or misinformation, FSLN leaders from top to bottom compared the April disturbances in Managua with the events in Ecuador that ended with the removal of Lucio Gutiérrez, that country’s unpopular President, from office. In this document, dated April 25, civic organizations of Ecuador summarize the Ecuadorian people’s admirable mobilization. Even a superficial reading of it shows the falsity of the comparison with today’s Nicaragua.

In Ecuador, the people of Quito, indignant at judicial manipulation to grant impunity to a corrupt former ruler, took to the streets in mid-April to defend the country’s violated institutionality. They came together on their own, not called by traditional leaders and not bearing party slogans, to express their ethical and civic convictions. In contrast, the very FSLN and PLC leaders who respectively directed the protests in Managua or silently supported them to wring benefits for their own party are the ones who have violated Nicaragua’s institutionality.

In Nicaragua, the judicial manipulation that granted total impunity to former tax director Byron Jerez, originally imprisoned for corruption, and will soon do the same for his still imprisoned boss, former President Arnoldo Alemán, does not appear to move anybody. In Nicaragua, street protests don’t express genuine civic mobilization, but the powerful though declining coordination capacity of a party structure that no longer has either principles or ethics.

* * *
We citizens of Quito present to the OAS [Organization of American States] Commission and to national and international public opinion our arguments for considering that the removal of Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez as President of the Republic of Ecuador is a legitimate and necessary act for the recovery and strengthening of the country’s democratic institutionalization. With this manifesto, we would like to contribute to the analysis of the political process that culminated in this regime change, a process that in our view was notable for its ethical and civic motivations and for the strong collective expression it succeeded in channeling.

The democratic movement of Quito and other cities that ended Lucio Gutiérrez’ government expresses rejection of a series of anti-constitutional measures promoted from the regime (reorganization of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and Constitutional Court; dissolving of the Supreme Court of Justice through a National Congress resolution and designation of a de facto Court on December 8, 2004; the dictatorial decree of April 15, 2005, through which the said de facto Court itself was dismissed and the state of emergency decreed in Quito). Society’s discontent is also concentrated on the authoritarian, nepotistic, corrupt and clientelist practices that characterized the government’s political administration.

These dictatorial actions, in clear contradiction to the Constitution, took place in a context of increasing deterioration of the national state’s political and juridical institutions, a process that has been gradually gathering force during the 25 years of the country’s prevailing democratic system. The Quito rebellion is not an irresponsible or chaotic action, but one that expresses the population’s unbreakable democratic will and its demand for a profound reorganization of the political system.

Act 1: Old politics

The Supreme Court of Justice that functioned until December 8, 2004, was a body dedicated to maintaining the balance of power among the largest political parties in the National Congress, which used co-optation to block the mechanisms laid out in the Constitution for renewing vacant posts within the Court. Party interests in the National Congress prevented passage of the necessary reforms to the Organizational Law of the Judicial Function, which should have regulated the election of judges, thus bringing into effect the principle of non-party administration of justice approved in the 1997 Popular Consultation. As a derivative and consequence of this blockade, the way was paved for the unconstitutional act of creating the de facto Court, and the governing alliance (PRE, PRIAN, PSP, MPD) proceeded to reorganize the bodies of political control, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, thus consummating their authoritarian and unconstitutional intervention.

The successive deals among the political oligarchies that have characterized political life in these years ended up weakening the Constitution by not permitting effective fulfillment of its regulatory capacity. The way the oligarchies used the Constitution to their own ends and subordinated the general interest to the particular interests of economic and political power groups generated illegitimate actions and anti-political postures, projecting the image that the justice system can be used to satisfy the interests of economic groups and political power over and above the constitution and civic interest. This has reduced the fundamental institutions of Ecuadorian democracy to the function of arbitrage and extortion in the conflicts between oligarchic groups.

Act 2: Anti-politics

The intervention of Castro Dáger, former President Abdalá Bucaram’s confidante and president of the de facto Court, corroborated the suspicion that this unconstitutional manipulation was oriented to comply with a political agreement by Colonel Gutiérrez and his Patriotic Society Party with the Ecuadorian Roldosista Party to provoke the return of Bucaram, currently a fugitive of justice. Through a questioned and irregular judicial ruling, Castro annulled the corruption trials against Bucaram, Dahik and Noboa.

The citizenry has been clamoring for a profound rectification of the government, Congress and the political parties since December 8, 2004. Through multiple channels, Congress was asked to annul the unconstitutional resolution dismissing the former Court of Justice and to issue the judicial regulations for naming new justices. The only requirement was responsibility and a sense of patriotism in order to establish the conditions that the judges needed to meet and the mechanisms for their designation. Nonetheless, the National Congress, shot through with avaricious party interests, and the Gutiérrez government, which continually intervened to boycott the functioning of the Congress, prevented the formation of a majority that would opportunely resolve the crisis of the judicial function, which ended up becoming a general political crisis.

Given this situation, the mayors and provincial prefects of Guayas, Azuay and Cuenca, meeting in the city of Cuenca at the start of this year, asked Gutiérrez and the then-congressional majority to rectify their acts to guarantee that the Constitution prevail. This took place before Castro annulled the charges against Bucaram. Later, various civic organizations and some political parties urged Mayor Paco Moncayo and Provincial Prefect Ramiro González to call a meeting of the Quito Assembly to insist on the civic demand that the Constitution and democratic rights be respected, and that Gutiérrez rectify his actions immediately. When the Quito Assembly met on February 16, 2005, a march was held in Quito in which over 200,000 people participated. In addition to this march, other massive demonstrations were held in Guayaquil and in Cuenca. Gutiérrez responded to these massive democratic expressions with offenses against the citizens, blindness and stubbornness, and he vainly persisted with his political errors.

Bucaram’s return in this context could only aggravate the crisis. The figure of Bucaram is a focal point for the rejection of political arbitrariness, corruption, impunity and violence. When Gutiérrez and the governing alliance in the Congress finally impeded a parliamentary resolution to stop the de facto Court, they unleashed the people’s democratic protest in Quito on April 13.

In his dictatorial pursuit, Gutiérrez used dangerously violent mechanisms against the people of Quito, organizing attacks on citizens, armed “counter-marches” and the disproportionate use of the police to repress the peaceful demonstrations.

Gutiérrez and his collaborators turned to forms of deceit and corruption to bring supposed sympathizers of the regime to Quito from other areas of the country to face off against the huge and peaceful democratic demonstrations. Using and abusing humble people, whose poverty was exploited to bring them along as mercenary bands for a mere pittance, Gutiérrez and his followers assaulted Ecuador’s integrity, since these acts stimulated regionalist and racist expressions.

Act 3: New politics

Quito’s massive demonstrations, called at first by the city’s authorities and some civic movements then organized by the people themselves starting on April 13, express the popular demand for a substantial change in the institutions and of the forms of practicing politics in Ecuador. The slogan, “Out with the lot of you!,” chanted on April 20 and 21 should be interpreted above all as a demand for profound transformation: we want democratic forms of political participation, parties and social organizations that guarantee the citizenry’s democratic participation, legitimate institutions and political representatives that are accountable to their constituencies.

Beyond the parties
and the traditional media

The most important feature of this notable social movement is the emergence and visibility of an unbending civic stance against the de-institutionalizing process, understood as the loss of the ethical dimension of public life. The Quito movement is part of a social democratization process that is crossing Latin America, and has to do above all with a need for political expression and participation that reaches beyond the capacity of the media and the political parties to represent social interests.

The citizens’ expression of their social demands and their political participation have been repressed, neutralized and blocked by those who have administered both the system of political representation and public opinion. In response to all this, a civil society is emerging with demands that lean toward a new political ethic, and this is taking place at the margins of media power. Some press editorialists made important pronouncements and analyses throughout the crisis, but their undeniable contributions to reflection and critique have been relegated to a very restricted group of readers.

The intervention and function of Radio La Luna and other stations that adhered to the Quito movement was precisely to serve as a channel for free and responsible civic expression, as an alternative to the large media corporations. For the first time, internet and cell phones became important mechanisms for social organizing.

A peaceful demand for ethical politics

The Quito movement that overthrew Gutiérrez is an example of a democratic movement. Its weapons were the Ecuadorian flags that thousands of people carried aloft, flowers, car horns, songs invented by our young people. Quito brought down an apprentice dictator through a peaceful movement with broad democratic participation.

In the streets, women and young people displayed enormous courage and creativity in calling for the massive civic demonstrations. This democratic participation demonstrates the longing for a profound transformation of politics that will allow social development. It is an expression of the demand that politics be subjected to ethics. The citizenry is demanding the democratization of the parties, the institutions and the media. The state institutions cannot remain trapped in conflicts among oligarchic economic and political groups.

Against corruption

Given this perspective, the Quito movement again manifests the population’s profound democratic tradition and the continuity of its constant demand for the ethical exercise of politics and respect for the constitutional and juridical norms governing democratic institutions, as well as condemnation of acts that violate civilized coexistence and the grave acts of corruption such as those behind the major bank fraud during the Mahuad government. The oligarchic power groups that have violated the constitutional norms and fundamental ethical principles to benefit from the institutional collapse have betrayed this democratic citizenry and its profound ethical sentiments.

Act 4: The future

The new government of President Alfredo Palacio, which emerged from the National Congress resolution on April 20, is a legitimate government, recognized by the Ecuadorian people. We hope that this government will respond positively to the democratic movement’s fundamental demand: to initiate an urgent modification of state institutions and the rules of participation and democratic representation. It is not an issue of moving to a rushed electoral process, but rather of finding the right paths and the urgently required consensus to change Ecuador’s political system, thus concretizing the democratic principles established by the current Constitution of the Republic.

Ecuador must firmly integrate itself into the regional context to promote peace and a solution to conflicts that are rending sister nations, and to create and strengthen the arenas of Latin American economic integration, political convergence and regional security. In the context of globalization, there is an urgent need to guarantee regional integration and Latin American unity to promote a new world order and the primacy of sustainable human and social development as a major global political objective.

Ecuador requires solidarity from the region and the international community to ensure its democratic process. It needs the solidarity of democratic movements among sister peoples. We are a free people, with a profound Latin Americanist and Ibero-American vocation. The OAS intervention is too late and shows that the Organization also has to change in line with advances in the continental democratic processes.

The Quito rebellion is a warning of the need for a more profound and inclusive democracy for Latin America.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


The Fuel Crisis and The Sparks that Ignite It


The Code of Children and Adolescents: Comments on a Misunderstood Law

Miguel Facussé: Fencing off Paradise

Marcela Lagarde: A Feminist Battles Feminicide

Quito Isn’t Managua, Ecuador Isn’t Nicaragua

From John Paul II to Benedict XVI: Memories, Analyses, Fears and Hopes
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development