Alfredo Palacio, the President of Ecuador, is a cardiologist and was previously Ecuador's Minister of Health. Officially, he is not directly affiliated with any political party. He succeeeded Lucio Gutierrez, who was ousted by the National Congress.
But even Palacio has become mired in the instability and political conflicts of Ecuador. The harder Palacio has tried to reform the electoral, party and political systems, the more opposition he has encountered. Last night, Palacio admitted that he has used "all constitutional ways" to foster political reform. His last hope is that the people of Ecuador will "rise up" and retake their country.
He said: "The needed change is a matter of survival for Ecuador as a nation....the people must defend their political rights and must keep the power to vote" he said. The ways of political corruption, abuse and intrigue, change slowly in Ecuador. Palacio's polling figures indicate that only 17% believe he is doing a good job, 43% average, and 38% a bad job. The National Congress rates even lower though. Only 6% say "good job", 26% average and 65% say "bad job". (Source Cedatos/Gallup poll conducted Nov 28 and 29).
THE UNITED STATES IS CONCERNED WITH ECUADOR
The United States has been encouraging Ecuador to sign a "Free Trade Pact". The US Ambassador to Ecuador, Linda Jewell told reporters today that she was "Pleased with Peru's decision to sign a free trade pact with the USA, Wednesday, and it is an example that Ecuador and Peru should follow". The concerns that Ecuador's leaders have had is the real and justified concern that the "Free Trade Pact" might hurt agriculture in Ecuador. Ecuador's farmers desperately need protections and market assistance to survive. They have the same concerns that the Mexicans in Chiapas and Tobasco had about NAFTA several years ago, and they are right. Therefore Columbia and Ecuador withdrew from the 19 month old regional trade talks with the USA late last month. These talks have been given a deadline until the end of January, of 2006. The USA doesn't seem to understand Ecuador's legitimate needs, and Ecuadorians are struggling to find ways to compete and survive in a "Global Economy". The ever present China is slowly "invading" Ecuador, and Ecuadorians already feel the pinch, as they lose jobs, because of an influx of lower priced Chinese consumer goods. Thus the country is being pressured by the low cost goods from China to the East, and by the "free trade" economics of America to the North. Ecuador must find a way to protect it's economy and people from these two giants of world commerce.
But in spite of all of these pressures, Ecuadorian businessmen seem to be optimistic. Deloitte and Touche surveyed 200 executives in Ecuador and reported that business confidence increased 6% in November. Executives were encouraged by the appointment of Supreme Court judges and Central Bank directors, as well as the start of various electric power projects. But 63% of those interviewed said that Ecuador's economy is not attractive for foreign direct investment. Also, the survey said that business leaders wanted: 1. A war on corruption 2. More investment in education and health 3. Control public spending.
REMARKABLE SIMILARITY OF POLL RESULTS AND THE POSITIONS OF A NEW LEADER OF ECUADOR
We found the Deloitte and Touche survey fascinating, because we found the poll results have a direct relationship to a new type of politician in Ecuador. They are young, without the baggage of years of political corruption, the new politicians are desperately needed in Ecuador. This leadership is beginning to emerge around the nation. Idealistic and political savy leaders such as Maria Caridad Vazquez of Cuenca continue to gain greater attention and support from the people. The reason?
Leaders like Vazquez of Cuenca deal with the needs of both the poor of Ecuador, and also with the things business leaders seem to want in the country as well. This new philosophy seems to be one of seeking economic prosperity, with a balanced view to protect the little people, while allowing socially responsible business leaders to prosper. Plus, if the importance of tourism and ecology is added to the mix, Vazquez is one of the nation's most knowledgable defenders of "clean environment" and protection of Ecuador's natural resources. It is an exciting, new and needed approach in Ecuador.