An analysis of the Ecuadorean elections from Latinamericapress.org
Jose G. Perez
jg_perez at bellsouth.net
Fri Nov 29 07:54:27 MST 2002
[This article from Latinamericapress.org contains some very interesting
information on the demographics --the class and social character-- of the
vote'rs that supported Lucío Gutiérrez. The article is accompanied by a
picture of Colonel Gutiérrez on a horse. Yes, a white horse.]
[The original is here:
Article's Date: Thursday, November 28, 2002
Gutiérrez takes the reins
Luis Angel Saavedra
The diversity of interests within the governing coalition will make the new
president's task more difficult.
"I won the first round of elections and now I'm first in the second round. I
ask God to help me win the third round, which is to govern well," former
Army colonel Lucio Gutiérrez said after being elected president with 54.4
percent of the vote on Nov. 24. Gutiérrez's words seemed to indicate that he
shared the concern of most of the country's political sectors about what
will happen after he takes office on Jan. 15.
"Ecuadorans have placed their trust in the historic process spearheaded by
the country's indigenous people," indigenous Deputy Nina Pacari said of
Gutiérrez's victory. The president-elect heads the Patriotic Society, a
coalition of indigenous and leftist movements (LP, Nov. 4, 2002).
Even the congresswoman, however, expressed concern about what will happen
now that the indigenous groups' candidate has won the presidency. "It's an
enormous responsibility, in which diversity of thought is going to be an
indispensable condition for governance," she said.
Gutiérrez grew up in the Amazon town of Tena, in one of the poorest areas in
Ecuador, where he received 96 percent of the vote. The product of a
middle-class family, he has been linked with the more progressive sectors of
"Being from a poorer area makes him more aware of and gives him greater
solidarity with the poor sectors," said Miguel Lluco, general coordinator of
the Pachakutik Pluricultural Movement, which backed Gutiérrez in the runoff.
Like Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (LP, Dec. 17, 1998) and Brazilian
President-elect Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (LP, Nov. 4, 2002), Gutiérrez
galvanized the desire for change among his country's most marginalized
people. During his campaign, he denounced those responsible for corruption,
especially the fugitive bankers whose actions resulted in a financial crisis
that began in 1999 and cost small account holders 75 percent of their
savings (LP, March 13, 2000). The events led then-President Jamil Mahuad
(1998-2000) to announce that Ecuador would swap its national currency, the
sucre, for the US dollar (LP, Jan. 24, 2000).
"Dollarization is a painful legacy and we will have to strengthen it, but
bringing the corrupt bankers back from Miami only takes political will, and
I have that," Gutiérrez said.
During his campaign, he promised to significantly increase spending on
public education, provide health care coverage for all Ecuadorans, create
jobs, and stimulate and protect national production. The latter promise,
however, is threatened by the imminent approval of the Free Trade Area of
the Americas (FTAA) (LP, Aug. 26, 2002).
"Going into the FTAA as we are would be suicide," Gutiérrez said during his
campaign. He proposed strengthening the Andean Community, seeking an
alliance with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and establishing a bloc
with Brazil and Venezuela, which have opposed the FTAA, to level the playing
field for negotiations with the United States.
Gutiérrez also promised to drop tariffs on raw materials, initiate tariff
reforms to protect national industry and eliminate the balance of trade
deficit, which amounted to about US$700 million last year.
After the first round of elections on Oct. 20, when Gutiérrez placed first
but did not capture the required 50 percent of the vote, the leftist
candidate began to talk with multilateral financial agencies and the
business sector. This worried his main ally, the Confederation of Indigenous
Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), leading him to repeat his pledge to
increase social spending and strengthen local governments. The Patriotic
Society agreed to allocate 15 percent of the national budget to public works
to be administered locally, decentralizing the government's financial
The new government will reflect the country's diversity. Gutiérrez's
advisers include former military officers who were dismissed after taking
part in protests that overthrew Mahuad on Jan. 21, 2000 (LP, Feb. 7, 2000),
as well as businesspeople, bankers and indigenous leaders. That very
diversity, however, will make the new president's task difficult.
"We must formulate economic and social policy based on the needs of all
sectors," Gutiérrez said. "Seeking to satisfy the needs of a single group is
a mistake. Things move ahead not when power is shared, but when
responsibilities are shared." The new president pledged to appoint "the best
men and women in Ecuador, based on their experience, not on power quotas."
Gutiérrez will face obstacles, however, especially in Congress, which will
be led by the far-right Social Christian Party (PSC) and the Democratic
Left, a social democrat party that joined with the PSC during the recent
elections. The two parties have not spoken with Gutiérrez, despite his
Most of the 100 national legislators are cool toward Gutiérrez, who can
count on 13 deputies in the Pachakutik-Patriotic Society alliance. Six
others, from such groups as the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD) and
Socialist Party, are also likely to support the new president, who may be
forced to seek alliances with the Democratic Left or the Ecuadoran
Roldosista Party (PRE), which has made amnesty for its leader, former
President Abdalá Bucaram (1996-97), a condition for its support. Bucaram
fled to Panama after being forced to step down in February 1997 (LP, Feb.
Gutiérrez's base of support is clearly regional. In the highlands, he
received three times the number of votes cast for his opponent,
multimillionaire banana magnate Alvaro Noboa of the Alvaro Noboa Independent
Renewal Party (PRIAN). In small, mainly indigenous provinces like Imbabura,
Cotopaxi, Chimborazo and Cañar, as well as in the Amazon, Gutiérrez received
75 percent of the vote. Noboa beat Gutiérrez two-to-one in the more populous
While Gutiérrez's victory is significant for Ecuador's indigenous groups, it
is only one step toward the indigenous movement's vision of social change
(LP, Oct. 21, 2002). "This is a transitional moment in which we must create
the conditions necessary to achieve structural change," Pacari said.
"The government has a plan that includes short-term elements, which
Gutiérrez can implement, but our plan goes beyond that," Lluco added. "It
reflects the aspirations of the indigenous people, blacks, mestizos and poor
urban classes, as well as the business sector, and will take 10 to 20 years
Gutiérrez will take office amid hope and doubt, but with one certainty: he
represents a new brand of politics, far from the interests of the political
establishment. "The election results show that we are in tune with people
who have tolerated for more than 20 years an alleged democracy that has only
brought more poverty," said Elsa Ximena Bohórquez, Gutiérrez's wife, who is
also a new member of Congress.
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