UNREST IN ECUADOR….Ecuadorean President Lucio Gutierrez called off the state of emergency he imposed yesterday to quell protests in Quito calling for his resignation.
The military, which under the state of emergency was charged with maintaining public order, was not visible on the streets Saturday as thousands of people disobeyed the decree and staged a peaceful demonstration, punctuated by the honking horns and shouts of “Lucio Out!” and “Democracy yes, dictatorship, no!”
Protesters expressed anger at the attempt by Gutierrez ? a former army colonel elected president in 2002 ? to keep residents of the capital from showing public displeasure with his administration. The emergency was imposed after three days of street marches demanding Gutierrez resign.
“We’re not to going to pay any attention. Let him take his emergency decree and go to another country,” said Teresa Arteaga, one of the protesters.
What brought about this protest is an ongoing power struggle between Gutierrez and the Ecuadorean Supreme Court. On the 8th day of last December, Gutierrez convened 52 members of the 100 member Congress to remove 27 of the 31 Supreme Court Justices from power. They had sided with his opposition in a failed attempt to impeach him on corruption charges.
Opposition politicians and protesters have been demanding that the members of the new Supreme Court be removed, calling the appointments unconstitutional. In March, Mr. Guti?rrez proposed a change in the judiciary to create a new court amenable to the opposition, but the Congress remained deadlocked.
The protests gathered strength this week after the Supreme Court ruled it would not try two former presidents on corruption charges, Abdal? Bucaram and Gustavo Noboa. Government foes say that Mr. Guti?rrez, in facing down congressional opponents who wanted to impeach him in November, received crucial support from Mr. Bucaram’s Roldosista political party.
…Hoping to ease the protests in recent days, estimated by some news media outlets at 10,000 people, Mr. Guti?rrez dissolved the court, saying the controversy over its appointment was “generating national commotion.” In his speech on Friday, he reminded Ecuadoreans that the court appointments were temporary, awaiting reforms that would lead to a permanent court. But Mr. Guti?rrez’s adversaries, though opposing those very appointments, saw the move as yet another unconstitutional act by a president eager to tighten his grip on power.
Randy Paul seems to think Gutierrez is not long for this government, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. He’s supposed to be a populist figure, but before becoming President he served time for an unsuccessful military coup, which makes me think he’s not exactly a champion of democracy. I don’t know anything about the alternatives, but it is reassuring to see the people of beautiful Quito peacefully taking to the streets when their corrupt executive attacks the judiciary in an attempt to supress opposition and centralize his power. Ahem. I hope certain members of our own corrupt administration take note.