Skip to main content

21st Century Socialists Turn Tables On Opposition

(Nov. 30, 2007) Without delay, Ecuador's new Constitutional Assembly approved President Rafael Correa's proposal to close the national congress until the assembly concludes its broad reorganization of the state in what officials are calling a "Citizen Revolution."

Ecuador is the third South American country to call a Constitutional Assembly this century, joining Venezuela and Bolivia in their social revolutions that promise to put citizens back in control of their countries. Decades of poor management and weak political institutions have robbed the traditional political elite of their legitimacy, leading to the sweeping victories of President Correa, Venezuela's President Chávez and Bolivia's President Morales.

Although this "Troika" of so-called 21st century Socialists was elected with the majority support of their respective citizens, each faces an entrenched opposition that questions the democratic nature of the constitutional reforms proposed by these assemblies. While Ecuador is just beginning this process, both Bolivia's and Venezuela's assemblies have approved a draft constitution, of questionable legality, to be voted on in national referendums. Venezuela will vote this Sunday, Dec. 2 while Bolivia has not yet set a date.

In what may be ominous foreshadowing of events to come, the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia were forced to impose their reforms because of citizen opposition to the undemocratic aspects of the changes. Both leaders are trying to remove constitutional term limits to allow them to remain in power indefinitely. In Venezuela, Chávez is also seeking the power to declare a state of emergency and suspend basic human rights, among other changes.

Although both leaders enjoy a numerical majority, public opinion turned against them after they refused to compromise with opposition groups. Both have accused citizens who disagree with their policies of treason. President Correa followed suit on Friday calling citizen protesters demanding oil sector reform in the eastern province of Orellana "unpatriotic," vowing to prosecute them "to the full extent of the law." Opposition groups in the new Assembly have already been told that they will not be allowed to occupy leadership positions but will have to settle for a minority voice equal to their numeric percentage.

In claiming broad political mandates for their proposed reforms, all three presidents mistakenly identify numerical majority with democracy and justice, ensuring that current political differences are merely passed on to the next generation.

In Bolivia the President's political party MAS enjoys a 50.7 to 49.3 percent majority in the assembly, a far cry from the sweeping mandate he claims will legitimize the imposition of a draft constitution. His announcement was immediately met by nation-wide protests that forced the police to flee one of the nation's capitals and have paralyzed the rest of the country ever since.

In Venezuela, it is more difficult to measure the level of discontent because of government repression of opposition groups. However, the fact that Chávez has resorted to force to silence the opposition is an indicator of how threatened he feels.

The situation is not as dramatic in Ecuador where the Assembly is just beginning its work, but President Correa's claims of a broad mandate for change are offset by a troubling survey that shows that 60 percent of Ecuadorians don't actually know what the Constitutional Assembly is. Of the 1,286 Ecuadorians interviewed by Cedatos, only 37 percent responded that they understood the process and 29 percent said they did not trust it.

What is so sad and ironic about the current reforms is the how the traditional minority has acted towards the opposition since coming to power. Instead of searching for long-term solutions, these movements are continuing their country's legacies of political oppression, only this time the roles are reversed. If history is any guide, it would be worthwhile for the revolutionary left to study what went wrong in Chile when Salvador Allende took power in 1970.
By Nathan Gill - Southern Affairs


Popular posts from this blog

Moving to the Suburbs: Reducciones in Recent Latin American Historiography

In 1503, the Spanish monarchy issued its first decree for the resettlement of indigenous groups in the Caribbean so that they would “live together” and “not remain or wander separated from each other in the backcountry.”[1]

As the European conquest spread to North, Central, and South America, these new settlements – known as reducciones and congregaciones in Spanish and descimentos in Portuguese – became sites of forced labor, evangelism, experimental agricultural, and refuge. Through a series of imperial policies decreed over the next decades and centuries of colonial rule, Spanish and Portuguese officials attempted to reshape the New World, including its human and natural landscapes. How colonial historians explain this process and indigenous peoples’ reactions to it is the focus of this essay.

In a review of the recent historiography of reducciones, several trends emerge that signal a shift in our understanding of the practice. As this paper will show, one common element is that …

77-Year-Old Wall Street Favorite to Face Fujimori in Peru Runoff

By Nathan Gill and John Quigley April 12, 2016 (Bloomberg) -- The victory by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former finance minister, for second place in Sunday’s Peruvian president elections sets up a showdown between two business-friendly candidates, part of a regional backlash against left-wing politicians.
Kuczynski, a 77-year-old Oxford-trained political economist who’s spent more than 50 years championing debt control and free trade, won 21 percent of vote with 96 percent of the ballots counted, according to the electoral office. He will face Keiko Fujimori, who won 39.8 percent, in a second-round vote on June 5.
Click here to read the full story on Bloomberg News.

Bailout Risk Grows for Ecuador After Worst Earthquake in Decades

By Nathan Gill April 19, 2016 (Bloomberg) -- Before a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador on Saturday, the South American nation’s finances were already in tatters as the government struggled to meet payments to municipal authorities, oil companies and even cancer hospitals. Cut off from global bond markets, President Rafael Correa must now find enough money to rehouse thousands.
As volunteers continue to rescue victims from the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, doubts are growing about the country’s ability to pay for the reconstruction. The nation is already in its worst recession since the financial system collapsed in the late 1990s, and international reserves are at their lowest levels in almost seven years.
Click hereto read the full story on Bloomberg News.