Ecuadorean President Gutierrez breaks with indigenous party

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sun Aug 17 13:21:59 MDT 2003

A Fistful of Dollars
Ecuador’s Gutiérrez, Washington’s new puppet, splits with the
Pachakutik Movement

By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief
August 17, 2003

First of all, we must expose his cowardice.

The President of Ecuador, Lucio Gutiérrez, did not even show his face
on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 6. It was his Secretary of
Communication who had to publicly announce the split with the
Pachakutik-New Nation Movement. That day, Gutiérrez had to rely on one
of his functionaries to face the press, and to face the nation.

At a brief press conference, Marcelo Cevallos, the official government
spokesman, said: “The president made this descision against Pachakutik
’s attitude of not acting according to our alliance.” So the party
with the most votes in the November 2002 Ecuadorian elections, the
principal popular political organization, was kicked out of the
government it helped to create for “not acting according to the

The president’s pretext for breaking the alliance was that the
Pachakutik Movement’s congressional delegation had voted against (or
at least didn’t support) the government’s legislative initiatives. But
the conflict has a more complicated history

Pachakutik’s Reasons

One of the measures Gutiérrez proposed to the National Congress was
the creation of a 44-hour workweek, thus increasing the previous
official standard of five 8-hour workdays. Pachakutik’s
representatives not only opposed this measure, but also condemned it
as “neoliberal.” Gutiérrez was able to pass this and other similar
measures because of the Christian Social Party, whose representatives
supported every one of the president’s proposals. It was this alliance
with a group that has traditionally defended the interests of the
Ecuadorian oligarchy, more than the neoliberal legislation itself,
that irritated Pachikutik’s delegation.

Lucio Gutiérrez visits George W. Bush
Official White House Photo
Since assuming the presidency, Lucio Gutiérrez done nothing concrete
for the country’s indigenous and peasant farmer populations – his
electoral base of support - other than to give them some shovels, some
axes and some condoms. His campaign promises of agricultural
development, education and tourism have been forgotten. He has set
aside the agricultural agenda handed to him by the Ecuadorian
Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE, in its Spanish
initials) in the days before his election, which he promised to
implement once head of State.

So on August 6, all of Pachakutik’s officials had their letters of
resignation ready. Once Gutiérrez’s decision to break the coalition
was known, Leonidas Iza, representative of CONAIE and Pachakutik, read
a public communiqué, stating “The Government has betrayed its popular
mandate – responding instead to the interests of the International
Monetary Fund – in a Letter of Intent expressing the desire to
privatize the oil, telephone and electric companies.”

Guilberto Talahua, CONAIE’s representative inside Pachakutik, said
that Lucio Gutiérrez “has reached his limit. We cannot continue
endorsing the president’s neoliberal policies and his shift to the
right.” As a result of this division, Ecuador’s social movement is now
in “opposition to the government in the social, the political, and the
economic, realms.” Talahua also mentioned the possibility of
“mobilizations or even an indigenous uprising.”

Meanwhile, various demonstrations have already been announced for the
coming week (including one by supporters and members of Gutiérrez’s
own Patriotic Society Party). Defense Minister Nelson Herrera has
warned that only officially authorized demonstrations will be
permitted. (Is that a veiled threat of repression against the social

The United States’ Best Ally

Lucio Gutiérrez continues to restructure his government, and all signs
indicate that the conservative right will support him. But from the
beginning, his rule has been characterized be nepotism: his brother
leads the party’s congressional delegation, his 18-year-old nephew was
hired by the Ecuadorian consulate in Houston, his brother-in-law is
his top advisor
 but behind all this, Lucio has a great friend who we
can’t forget: the President of the United States.

On November 19, 2002, this reporter heard the words of then-candidate
Lucio Gutiérrez: "The only path left to we Latin Americans is unity,
as the Simon Bolívar the Liberator brilliantly predicted." And we all
believed him

But since those days he has forged a new alliance on the backs of the
Ecuadorian people. Let’s look and some of the facts:

On Monday, November 26, one day after his triumph in the elections,
Lucio Gutiérrez received a congratulatory call from George W. Bush,
who also invited Gutiérrez to visit him in Washington. The next day,
Bush announced a change in US policy for development aid: only those
countries completely aligned with the Washington’s global political
agenda would receive it.

On January 15 of this year, Gutiérrez’s first day in office, a man
aligned with Grupo Producción – one of the most powerful business
groups in Ecuador – was named Economic Minister in the new cabinet.
Minister Mauricio Pozo has various links with the country’s banking
groups – considered to be principally responsible for Ecuador’s
financial collapse at the end of the 90’s – and supports following the
IMF’s recommendations to the letter.

Lucio Gutiérrez hadn’t been in power for one month when he made his
fist trip outside the country
 to visit Bush in Washington. After an
hour-long meeting, all the two presidents had to say about their
conversation was that they had spoken about friendship, cooperation in
the war on terrorism, and the financial assistance that the United
could give to Ecuador.

As you can see, kind readers, it not simply "not acting according to
the alliance" that resulted in Pachakutik’s departure from the
government (and with them the great majority of the social and popular
 it was many things, and the last one to explain is this:

Patricio Acosta, Gutiérrez’s confidant and Secretary of Public
Photo: El Universo de Guayaquil
In charge of the Department of Public Administration, a position
similar to a Chief of Staff, is an ex-Colonel who is well-known to
everyone in Ecuador as Gutiérrez’s best friend. Patricio Acosta, a
member of the group of military officers who supported the indigenous
uprising of January 21, 2000, has a varied cirriculum: as a soldier he
has attended various programs at the School of the Americas (including
a course in counter-insurgency), and he was the brains behind
Gutiérrez’s campaingn in the party they founded together. Since taking
office he has been sticking his nose into the work of the ministers,
advisors and secretaries, and has traveled twice to the United States
to meet with gringo officials.

In his last trip, to Washington and to New York, which began this past
August 5, Patricio Acosta met with officials from the State
Department, the Organization of American States, and other US-based
institutions. As you can see, Acosta was there when Gutiérrez anounced
the split in the alliance with Pachatutik. Coincidence? Let’s see:

In an article published August 10 in the Ecuadorian newspaper El
Comercio, Acosta made some important statements. According to the
article, Acosta’s mission “was directed towards winning economic
support to fight drug trafficking.” Furthermore, “during his
conversations with the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank,
and International Monetary Fund, the Secretary of Administration
realized that he would only get this support when the conditions
[imposed by the IMF] were met.”

(Remember when Fernando Buendía, Pachakutik’s international relations
coordinator and an ex-official in Mauricio Pozo’s Economic Ministry,
told us that his organization would bring “a public debate, at the
highest levels, on drug legalization”?)

Aside from winning a commitment on “the subject of the donation of
helicopters and equipment for the police,” the secretary of
administration also reminded the Bush administration officials that,
“Ecuador continues being the United States’ great ally in the war on
drugs and terrorism.”

But that’s not all

One day later, in a telephone interview with the daily El Universo,
Acosto made two key statements for understanding finally what was
behind the split with Pachakutik:

1. “In the United States, there is a positive perception of Colonel
Lucio Gutiérrez’s government.”

2. Many US spokespeople commented that, “they [the Gutiérrez
government] should have broken this alliance [with Pachakutik]

We can now see a general picture of the situation in Ecuador.
Apparently, the virtual winner of the November 2002 Ecuadorian
elections was George W. Bush, and the President of Ecuador will become
simply another operative in the supposed “war on drugs” and the brutal
“war on terrorism” imposed by the United States... and as always, all
for the money. In fact, it didn’t cost much for Gutiérrez to betray
his indigenous allies and the social movements.

But pay attention, kind readers; we have yet to see the effects of
this new shift in the panorama of our América.

It is, now, the Ecuadorian people’s turn to speak.

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