Politics in Ecuador are emotional and dynamic. So when President Raphael Correa found himself a forced guest in Hospital de la Policia, in Quito, a police controlled hospital for 12+ hours while 700 policemen ravaged through the streets of the capital city it would be fair to call it a "Coup" attempt. Two banks were broken into, storefronts vandalized, and even Correa was injured by tear gas. He was roughed up by the police when he tried to talk with them at their capital barracks. After the officers "rough handled" him they threw water at him. On the streets people were killed, there were fires, property damage, roads were blocked, the international airport closed, and loud and angry crowds. In Guayaquil, there were demonstrations which were quickly dispersed. In Cuenca the people were concerned about their President.
Said Maria Caridad Vazquez, Cuenca's most popular political leader.
It was a test of Correa's power, and he won. Indeed by September 1 Correa had addressed the nation, calmed the streets, reopened the airport, cleared the roads and was showing strong leadership.
But what really caused this, and was it simply a salary dispute or something more? It seemed to be well planned and well financed. Strange faces and groups joined the demonstrations, often lighting the "tire fires" and typical tactics of demonstrators.
There are several powerful groups that would like to be rid of Correa, including giant American oil companies, that are facing hundreds of millions in fines for environmental damage, perhaps more as the legal process moves forward. Plus, some influential members of the opposition party (LUCIO) were involved in this coup, as they would like to take Correa's job.
But Rafael Correa, educated in the USA, and an ardent spokesman for an end of corruption, has built a strong foundation of credibility around the world.
The U.S. State Department's Hillary Clinton quickly spoke up in support of Correa, letting any opposition know that to fight Correa would be to fight the USA.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said: "Argentina rejects the rebellion of the Ecuadorian military and police forces." (a subtle reminder that Correa has tried to remove military people who take bribes and has forced some to resign). "Argentina supports Rafael Correa" she said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that he believed Correa and the Ecuadorian people could defeat this coup attempt.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced for Correa, as did Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Mexico. The Organization of American States (OAS) and the Group of Rio started efforts to restore order in Ecuador. The General Secretary of OAS said: "We believe that the Ecuadorian government can bring the situation under control. We are going to issue a declaration supporting Correa and his government,"
Indigenous oppose coup and call for greater democracy
More important than statements from other nations was the support Correa received from indigenous groups of voters within his own country. Important groups such as the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and ECUARUNARI, the large highland affiliate of the CONAIE, made strong statements against the police rebellion.
The CONAIE blamed Correa's lack of openness to dialogue concerning current reforms and his failure to build strong alliances with Ecuadorian social movements as a source of vulnerability open to attempts from the right to destabilize his government. But still it supported Correa.
The CONAIE credited the most reactionary right wing elements in the country with backing Correa's ouster, anticipating that the political crisis could be used to legitimize right wing tendencies “from inside and outside the government... to justify their total alliance with the most reactionary sectors and with emerging business interests.” While stating their opposition to Correa's support for expansion of oil and metal mining extraction and agro-industry interests, they energetically rejected this “disguised right wing support” for the attempted coup, saying they “will continue to struggle for the construction of a plurinational state with a true democracy.”
ECUARUNARI also released a statement blaming the right and "outside interests" with trying to organize Correa's ouster in reaction to the country's Political Constitution which was passed overwhelmingly in September 2008. The new constitution recognizes the human right to water, rights for nature and Ecuador as a plurinational state. While ECUARUNARI held the Correa government responsible for making concessions to multinational corporations that “leaves those reactionary sectors free to act in this way,” they affirmed their opposition to the coup attempt and put member organizations on alert to defend “the plurinational state.”
While Correa is likely to come out of Thursday's political crisis in a strengthened position the Regional Advisory Group on Human Rights in Quito suggested that the crisis could be an opportunity for Correa to renew support for social groups that helped get him first elected in November 2006. In a written statement, they said, “we call upon the national government to set aside its arrogant attitude that is isolating it from the social bases. Together,” they continued, “we can build a country with dignity, peace and sovereignty, in which dialogue with social sectors is a daily activity that guides our path toward a country distanced from extractive policies and dependence on a development model based on the destruction of nature.” In short, this event presents an opportunity for Correa to renew the friendship he early on had with indigenous groups.
There were some concerned that Correa's life might be in danger, and some Latin American leaders planned to fly to Ecuador to stand beside Correa to "save his life". That proved to be enough to push the police to release Correa and allow him to get back to leading the nation.
While the protesters, (the police) stated that their riot was because of low salaries, or bonuses, most observers believed that opposition political groups, and perhaps certain friends of giant oil interests may have contributed to, or even encouraged this coup attempt. American Oil companies have not commented on this matter.
Rafael Correa may come out of this stronger than ever. Both the USA, and political leaders on the left and the right have voiced support for him, virtually telling opposition forces that they would not be recognized. Correa has an integrity and popularity among the Ecuadorian people, who instinctively recognize his valiant efforts to improve Ecuador's quality of life and economic stability.
PERSONAL INSIGHT, UP CLOSE AND DIRECT TO YOU:
Correa is a progressive politician, but not a Communist. He is in favor of an active government, but not a Socialist. He comes from a new breed of the "Global Generation" of thinkers, who tap into the intellect and communication skills of the emerging world that will not be kept "in the box" of traditional information restraints. I have met with, dined with, and studied Correa throughout his political career. Every fact, every true and confirmed observation has led me to admire him, and wish him well. He is one of the world's emerging great leaders. Youth in Latin America find him magnetic and stimulating. Older people find him wise and insightful. Those who oppose him most, are those most apt to be influenced by corruption or outside forces. As well said by another Latin American leader: "The Ecuadorian people will be the ones to determine if they will save their nation."The sound on the streets one day after the "noise" is Viva Correa!