Muerte Cruzada, Ecuador in crisis

At May 1 demonstration in Quito, people demand President Guillermo Lasso get out.

Ibarra, Ecuador

June 3 — On May 17 at 6:59 a.m., Ecuador’s banker-President Guillermo Lasso faced impeachment by the National Assembly and a dishonorable expulsion from office.

At 7:00 a.m. that day, Lasso invoked the “muerte cruzada” (mutual death) clause of Ecuador’s Constitution. Applying this clause immediately dissolves the National Assembly and requires President Lasso to surrender his office after a six-month-long general election process to replace both him and the Assembly. Lasso is empowered to rule by decree until Nov. 30, when a transitional administration should be installed.

Police and soldiers had already assembled outside the National Assembly in Quito, the Andean capital, to prevent the legislators from occupying the building after Lasso dissolved the parliament. 

A team of independent young journalists had taken months to investigate and expose a web of government corruption and drug trafficking that entangled the ultraright Lasso and his brother-in-law Danilo Carrera Drouet. 

La Posta wrote: “This network, which had international drug-trafficking operations at its core, permeated the depths of the state and enriched itself from it. Bribe demands, falsification of documents and rigged contracts involve at least four of the main state-owned companies. This state emporium includes oil and electricity companies (which together have budgets in excess of $14 billion, that is, close to 50% of the entire General Budget of Ecuador of 2023).” (investigacioneslaposta.com)

Correa reacts

Former President Rafael Correa tweeted: “What Lasso has done is illegal. Obviously, there is no ‘internal turmoil’ [as Lasso claimed]. He just couldn’t buy enough parliamentarians to save himself. In any case, it is a great opportunity to get rid of Lasso, his government and his rented assembly members and recover the homeland.” (tinyurl.com/Correa-tweet)

Ecuadorians are angry about the insecurity, the governmental incompetence and Lasso’s total indifference to the needs of the masses. People remember that life was better six years ago — before Lenín Moreno became president, before the COVID-19 pandemic, before prison massacres and surging street violence.

Ecuador has plunged to the depths of being the most unsafe country in Latin America, while during Correa’s decade in office, which ended in 2017, it was ranked the second safest. People talk about this fact. 

La Vía Campesina (the International Peasant’s Movement) on May 20, demanded that Lasso must “Respond immediately to the serious social crisis that Ecuador is facing, with high rates of hunger and child malnutrition, poverty, migrations, unemployment of almost half of the population, lack of investment in health and education, and an out-of-control level of violence and insecurity due to criminal gangs.”

The peasants’ group also demanded “Lasso must refrain from deepening neoliberalism, extractivism, the privatization of basic services, the handover of natural goods — oil, mining, the radio-electrical spectrum — to transnational corporations.” 

Satisfying the reasonable demands of La Via Campesina will be a tremendous challenge, because six years of government headed by Lenín Moreno and Guillermo Lasso have created institutional havoc. (Moreno defeated Lasso for the presidency in 2017, but adopted Lasso’s economic platform and received political support from the former banker, making the multi-millionaire oligarch Lasso the biggest influencer of Moreno’s 2017-21 administration.)

Lasso supported the transitional junta led by César Trujillo that usurped the power of the democratic Citizens Participation Council in order to dismantle the institutions and reforms of the previous decade of progressive government. Lasso supported the violent repression of the October 2019 National Strike.

Lasso and Moreno caused grave social crisis

From Ibarra, a midsized city of 140,000 people in the Andes mountains, about 43 miles from Quito, we see a grave social crisis. Lasso and Moreno manufactured the political crisis. We have not experienced any “internal turmoil,” since last year’s National Strike or anything like the 2019 “Paro Nacional” [National Strike], when the masses of Ecuador demanded regime change during the Great Uprising of October.

Hundreds of students led by the Federation of University Students of Ecuador (FEUE) marched in Quito on May 30, to protest the robberies and assaults against students attending night classes. They also protested the recent murders of two students on the coast.

The real state of the economy is reflected by the huge loss of jobs caused by the COVID-19 crisis, brutal cutbacks in social services, the emigration of tens of thousands of Ecuadorians, the violence of the prison massacres spilling over into the streets of Quito and on the Pacific Ocean cities of Guayaquil and Esmeraldas, wrecking the tourist industry on the coast.

According to the Constitution, the first round of general elections for the presidency and the National Assembly must be held on Aug. 20. The second round will be held on Oct. 15. Lasso will rule until the new president’s inauguration Nov. 30. All legal parties and movements have until June 7 to register their presidential and parliamentary candidates. 

The governmental ineptitude and fall of Lasso has negatively impacted the parties of the right and some on the misnamed “left,” like the Socialist Party, which supported Moreno and Lasso. 

The crushing defeat handed to Lasso in this year’s Feb. 5 referendum and midterm Assembly elections was the handwriting on the wall for the right wing. Lacking vision and a credible program, the right has only one issue now: “security.” We expect a conservative coalition to blame “Correismo” (Correa-ism) for everything that has gone wrong in the last six years of neoliberal government.

Can the popular movements overcome divisions?

The divisions among the popular forces who oppose Lasso’s neoliberalism leave room for a lot of uncertainty. This concerns the progressive Citizen’s Revolution party (RC) of Rafael Correa and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), whose leftist president is Leonidas Iza. In 2021, the divisions led to a Lasso victory in the runoff election. 

The CONAIE held a general assembly May 24-25. The Indigenous movement announced the pre-candidacy of “comrade Leonidas Iza Salazar” for the presidency of the Republic. CONAIE is trying to resolve vexing contradictions with its political arm Pachakutik (PK) at this critical moment.

CONAIE declared: “The candidates for the National Assembly must be new cadres that allow the retaking of the collective political project. The organizations that fought together in the uprisings of 2019 and 2022 should integrate the lists of national and provincial candidates for the National Assembly, such as: FEINE, FENOCIN, CONAIE, Yasunidos, unions, feminists, ecologists, victims of the national strikes and more organizational structures of the country.” (CONAIE, May 25, Resolution 11)

The strongest political party in Ecuador has not yet chosen its candidates. The Citizen’s Revolution proved itself to be the most powerful political movement in the country, by winning the midterm elections. Most importantly, the Feb. 5 vote was a triumph for the people, who were not distracted by a sophisticated pro-Lasso propaganda campaign in the ruling-class media.

Economist Andrés Arauz, who represented RC with the UNES (Unión por la Esperanza) coalition in 2021, told Democracy Now! May 26, “More important than my name or anybody’s name is that we have a broad coalition.” 

Arauz is worried that Lasso will issue decrees to “roll back labor laws, to privatize key state-owned assets, like the oil industry, electricity, utility systems, telecommunications, strategic sectors . . . and he has promised to issue a decree . . . which converts Ecuador into what’s called a tax haven, a financial sector free zone is what he has called it.” 

Uncertainty reigns. The people are hopeful that elections can lead to a positive political outcome. This is going to be a difficult year for Ecuador, especially because El Niño is threatening to inundate the country with a season of heavy rains. Ecuadorians worry that the government is unprepared to deal with the looming crisis.

Coyuntura/UCE/IIE Second Year of the Government gives a precise economic analysis in Spanish of the origin of the social crisis. (tinyurl.com/22cmuhcc)

Michael Otto

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Michael Otto
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