Sunday, June 08, 2008

Rush to Closure

I haven't written about Ecuadorian politics in months for reason I mentioned back in January (i.e., not wanting to be negative most, if not all, of the time).

As well, I've been working hard to keep my little restaurant and hostal business going, and it's been tough, tough struggle on that front, with consequent financial and emotional toll that such struggles take on one over time. Still, we're alive and open, and that counts, I like to think.

While this has been going on, the Constituent Assembly and specifically, its majority bloc, Acuerdo Pais under the leadership of Rafael Correa have continued issuing Mandates and developing parts of a draft Constitution intended to replace the present one.

June 24 update:

Work took me away from this, but then yesterday morning, Alberto Acosta, President of the Asamblea Constituyente, resigned which brings me back to my neglected blog.

Acosta has resigned but will remain as member of the AC, since he is the Asamblista mas votado del pais. That said, it's clear that Acosta was forced out of the AC Presidency because he didn't believe that the AC could do an adequate job of developing a new Constitution within the 180 day term initially allotted the AC to do the job. (The enabling statute approved by the Consulta Popular setting up the entire AC process envisions a 60 day follow on period, if necessary, which could take the AC to the end of September.)

As has been clear to all observers for quite some time, it is Rafael Correa who's been directing the AC, and a couple of weeks ago, he made it publicly clear that he wants the AC to wrap its work up by July 26. It appears that Correa's public statement on the AC timetable spelled the end of Acosta's tenure as AC President, and yesterday, he resigned. His resignation, which came as a surprise to nearly all political observers including most of his colleagues with the majority Acuerdo Pais bloc, was accepted by the bloc last night.

Acosta had hoped to convene a plenary session yesterday afternoon to discuss/explain his resignation, but the AP bloc went into caucus by itself with the Political Bureau (how Soviet!) of AP to discuss the implications of Acosta's resignation; it's presumed that the Buro will direct AP members to accept Acosta's resignation. Early news reports this morning (June 24) indicate that Correa will meet with the bloc today in Manabi to discuss next steps.

Acosta held a press conference last night at the AC surrounded by opposition members of the AC and no one from the AP, to explain his resignation. He came across as a "good soldier" type, bowing to the leadership of the AP (Correa) and vowing to continue participating in the AC process. He said that he felt more time was needed for the process to ensure "full social particpation" in developing the Constitution, but that Correa feels that if the process continues beyond July it would be "political suicide", and so he's out as AC President.

As noted, Acosta will stay on the AC, but the Presidency will apparently pass to Fernando Cordero, the AC's Vice President, the second most voted Asamblista and a person who's been vocal in asserting that yes, the AC CAN complete its work by July 26. It's not clear whether that's possible or not, but it does appear that hundreds of articles of the new Constitution remain to be debated and approved. Commentators/analysts believe that in order to do that and finish by the July deadline, the AC will have sit in session six days a week for all remaining weeks and work eight to ten hours a day every day. We'll see if they can do it.

Aside from the sheer workload, the question also arises as to whether the AC should select a new VP (its by-laws never envisioned resignation of the AC President, so there are no provisions regarding selection of a replacement VP) and if so, who that person might be.

The question at the moment is whether the AP will maintain its internal discipline which has served it well up to now, or whether divisions resulting from (possible) struggle for the AC VP position will emerge. Given that Correa has prevailed over Acosta, the second most powerful political figure in Ecuador and the AP, my guess right now is that the AP will hold firm and continue to work together in disciplined manner, striving to comply with the July 26 deadline.

Finally (since I couldn't work this subject artfully somewhere else into the narrative), why the rush to finish up by July 26 and why Acosta's comment about extensions being political suicide for Correa? Basically, it's an issue of diminishing political returns over time for the AC and behind it, Correa. As the AC process has played out over time, it's become increasingly obvious that AP and Correa have had many more things in mind than just a new Constitution and that they didn't have any qualms in highjacking the AC process to advance their politica agenda. As well, on both Constitutional and non-Constitutional issues, it's become increasingly clear that the AP (80 out of 130 Asamblistas, recall) in doing whatever it wants, is advancing a haphazard, quasi-socialist political agenda that has done nothing to strengthen investor confidence in Ecuador, and indeed (I believe) has adversely affected living standards and employment in the country.

At the least, steadily declining approval ratings for the AC and for that matter, Correa himself, seem to indicate that more and more people are losing hope that the AC process will achieve real positive change, let alone improve the lives and incomes of ordinary folks here in Ecuador, and for the same reason, the chances that the country will approve the work of the AC are declining.

For these reasons, Correa and his allies are in a hurry to finish up the AC work and get it out to a Consulta Popular; chances are not all that good that it'll be approved now, and the more time goes by, the bleaker the political outlook for the new Constitution. Still, haste makes waste, as they say, and that's the dilemma: Will speeding up the process improve chances for approval of the new Constitution, or will accelerating the process make for an even worse product (what's been produced to date isn't impressive) which could be rejected by the pueblo (or worse, accepted, only to drive an already weak economy into the ground)? No easy choices for anyone....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

For A Change of Pace: Barack Obama

.... I haven't posted for quite a while because when it comes to writing about events with respect to politics in Ecuador, I recall my mom's admonishment: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Ok, that's probably being a little too harsh on Ecuador; in fact, some of things Correa and the Asemblea Constituente have done are not all that bad, but.... well, readers of this blog already have a sense of how I feel regarding political developments to date. The large anti-government demonstration a couple of weeks ago in Guyaquil and the smaller one here in Quito are causes for hope, but I'll address them in a separate post.

NOW, for a change of pace, just a few short thoughts on Barack Obama: I'm an Obama man, to be clear from the get-go. Assuming readers here follow political developments in the States, you know that today, Tuesday, February 5, 2008, is what's known as Super-Tuesday. Today is the day in which 22 States, from MA to CA, from AK to OK and lots of places in between, hold their party primaries.

Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee from the GOP aside (and they literally are on the margins as we go into today), we appear to be down to the final four, Clinton and Obama on the Democratic side, and McCain and Romney over in the GOP.

The Republicans, in the person of George Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress (for most of the last seven years) have done such an absolutely awful job in virtually any subject area you can name (e.g., foreign affairs, health, education, fiscal discipline, distribution of incomes, environment, and on and on) that I fully expect to see a Democratic President in the White House and stronger Dem control in both Houses of Congress, come next January 20.

On that premise - that the Dem Presi candidates are the only ones worth mentioning right now - I just want to say that I really hope that Obama wins that Party's nod.

Some word differences come to mind when I think of Obama and Clinton: He inspires, she manages; he leads, she directs; he has the vision, she has the plan; he emphasizes the future, she touts the past (her experience); he talks about what "we" (the people) can do for the country, she talks about what "she" can do for the country; he's made mistakes (youthful drug issues) and apologized for them, she's made a much bigger mistake (Iraq) and has failed to acknowledge it, let alone for apologize for it; he talks about the way things should and can be done, she talks about the way things are (i.e., have always been) done; he's got the excitement and she's got.... well, she's got those plans again, and all the excitement they bring with them.

Thinking of Clinton, I believe Richard Cohen says it well in today's Washington Post: She'd make a great Chief of Staff for Obama when he's in the White House. (My own pick position for her in the Obama administration would be Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, because she's done so much study and planning (planning!) work in that area.)

I can't think of a person who has prepared him/herself more for the White House job in terms of plans and platforms and in doing the "right" (read politically safe, politically exigent) things in getting elected to the Senate (would she have been able to get elected in her own State of Arkansas? I doubt it.), getting on the right Committees, doing lots of homework, making earnest speeches, publishing the right book, making the right speeches on the right circuits, and again, on and on. In short, she's been doing all the things that an aspiring Presidential candidate "needs" to do, and she's been doing all those things for years, because she's aspired to the job for years (denying it all the time).

Over those same years, the American people have been following her activities (not believing for a second that she didn't want to be President), pretty much knowing where her career was going and why.

And those same American people knew as well, that she'd never vote against the crowd on controversial issues, that she'd always vote in the politically expedient way, the way that wouldn't make waves, the way that was least dangerous (as she perceived the danger at any given time) to her career. That's why she stopped using the name Hillary Rodham Clinton a long time ago; no sense in pissing off those ant-feminist sorts. That's why she ran for Senate in New York, not her real home State of Arkansas (just like RFK, btw) because her chances of getting elected - or get elected at all - were better. That's why she voted for Iraq (as opposed to Robert Byrd of her own Party, who spoke out clearly, even eloquently, against Iraq) even though she knew we were going to war; it was not "safe" to go up against Bush at that point. That's why she's said in earlier debates, that she (as opposed to Obama and others) would continue to deal with lobbyists because "that's the way things are done"; she doesn't want to get cross with those guys now during the election campaign.

And listening to Clinton, I guess that all of the above, all of those decisions, have been taken on the basis of experience. Experience.....

Well, let's see, Democrat experience over the last seven years has gotten us the highest level of national debt in our history, a Republican-controlled Congress for most of that time (and a Congress now nominally controlled by Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who act like Republican lap dogs most of the time), a shrinking middle class which finds affordable housing and higher education more out of reach than ever, historically high oil prices, an impending recession, endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a disparaged and disrespected America across the globe, a degraded environment, basic civil rights compromised at home, and ignored abroad, under our aegis, and on and on....

Frankly, I think a great deal of the current Democratic Party leadership (including Clinton, who's on the DLC) should be thrown overboard and replaced with people capable of getting strong control of both houses of Congress and who aren't ashamed of calling themselves liberal.

At this point, in my opinion, Barack Obama's the only Democratic leader capable of leading an overhaul of the party, and I believe it also explains why he's doing so well in the primaries.  People are simply tired of the same old, experienced people who aren't capable of achieving any real change in so many of our institutions, and they're looking for young blood and fresh ideas.

Me too.  Go, Obama!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dayuma to Montecristi and Back (Or, The Rules Apply to You, But Not to Me)

Things appear to have gotten out of control pretty quickly in Dayuma, reading the papers and watching telenoticias. At this point, the Army together with the police, has arrested 22 residents in the community including the Prefect of Orellana, Guadalupe LLori (Ecuador's version of an elected State governor; Llori is from Lucio Gutierrez's party, the PSP). Looking at photos in this morning's El Comercio, it appears that soldiers and cops were none too gentle in grabbing people. Articles quote detainees as having been punched, kicked, beaten and robbed, in some cases, and photos show one guy with serious face injuries and other people down in the dirt or stacked in military vehicles on their way to jail.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the Catholic Church and various human rights groups have denounced the government's actions and - here's where it gets interesting - appealed to the Constituent Assembly for the release of the detainees and investigation of the entire Dayuma situation.

The government's response has been that the detainees are all troublemakers (in some cases, sheltered by Colombians, not further identified). Correa and his Security Coordinator, Fernando Bustamante, have responded to human rights groups' accusations and calls for investigations by telling the CA that essentially none of the Dayuma affair is CA business. Further, Correa has threatened to resign if the CA decides to look into Dayuma. Correa even went so far as to send 300 of his Alianza Pais people to march on CA offices in Montecristi to demonstrate the "will of the people" (original phrasing) in demanding that the CA keep its hands off of the Correa government and its activities.

News viewers were treated to the spectacle, then, of Alianza Pais folks threatening Acuerdo Pais folks (CA leadership with 80 of its 130 seats under their control) with "direct action" if the CA didn't accede to Correa's demands/threats.

So, surprise, the CA did accede to Correa, expressing that, gosh, even though the CA has plenipotentiary powers (which they used to dissolve Congress and fire a number of Correa's political enemies), suddenly those powers don't exist and/or apply when it comes to defying Correa. As El Comercio columnist Marco Arauz put it this morning, while the CA doesn't recognize any limits to its powers and authorities when it comes to the Constitution and legislation, it will recognize its limits when it comes to following the Correa government's playbook.

Aside from the obvious inconsistencies, if not hypocrisy evident in the CA's actions (taken with the assistance of eight votes from MPD, Patchakutik and surprisingly, the RED), it's also become very clear in this object case, that the CA is controlled directly now by Correa. I had been careful to make a distinction between Correa and the CA's President, Alberto Acosta, if not a difference between them; that doesn't appear to be the case now. The dismissal of the Dayuma complaint in the CA makes it clear that Correa's running the show in Montecristi.

The implications of all of this are clear then: CA is progressively undermining its own credibility and political and moral standing in Ecuador. I have no doubt that Correa's popularity remains quite high and that expectations for positive results from the CA are just as high. But if these sorts of open political double dealings and hypocrisy continue, I expect that Ecuadorians will have lower and lower expectations of both Correa and the CA, and sadly, lower hopes for the political future of this country.......

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Controlling the Elected

This morning's El Comercio carries as its lead editorial, a piece titled, "Control of Elected", which echoes my comments about the actions of the Constituent Assembly to date. Let me see if I can do the editorial some justice in English:

Control of the Elected
We hope that the Asemblistas understand
legislating like dictators provokes conflict
and splits which in turn incite disobedience
and spreading insecurity.

"The first sessions of the Constituent Assembly pose the old, unresolved dilemma in democratic systems: The effective control of elected officials. The question pertains when great unease exists with respect to how one can effectively control or establish limits over an entity that, in its rush to an exclusive - and excluding - interpretation of complete power, ignores legal norms that constrain it. And that concern begins with the CA's own enabling statute which should have regulated the CA's organization and installation.

We're living in an environment established by the President of the Republic, in which 80 people propose to legislate, in a few weeks, (administration of) taxes, the banking system, and property. The new Constitution itself is discarded as a priority since, according to the CA's first resolutions, "revolutionary" laws will be applied immediately and without reference to Constitutions, past or future.

In other words, the principal objective of the process which was to be the drafting of a new Constitution for the Republic, is secondary and of minor importance.

In a democracy, representatives, legislators, councilmen, Contitutional assemblymen, etc., are elected with a given mandate covered by applicable laws, save situations such as the birth of a state emerging from a dictatorship, which does not apply in our case.

For these reasons, what's happening in Ecuador right now is serious and outrageous since the 80 Constitutional assemblymen have in fact usurped Legislative Powers and suborned the Judiciary and control of the State. For this reason, EL COMERCIO concurs with and supports the editorial protest of El Universo newspaper, and we warn that the CA is going down a road toward political and social confrontation that bring with it unpredictible consequences. We hope that the 80 assemblymen understand, notwithstanding whatever political or ideological imperative, that direct legislation, as happens in dictatorships, provokes grave confrontations, incites civil disobedience and creates an environment of insecurity much worse that any which has heretofore existed."


I haven't seen the El Universo editorial, but I'm guessing from this editorial that it's pretty much in the same vein, that is, message to the 80 Acerdo Pais folks: Hey, listen up, you guys, you were not, repeat, not, elected to do anything other than draft a new Constitution which would submitted to the electorate for their approval, y nada mas, no despedidos de enemigos politicos del Presi, ni disolucion de instituciones democraticos (e.g.,el Congreso). Punto, final, me explico?

I rather doubt that the AP guys and their allies of the moment (see below for comment on the latest alliance of convenience) will heed the above editorial, but as El Comercio says, they've been warned about the possible consequences of their actions, and I'm glad that the warning has been an early one. I hope the editorial also serves as a wake up notice to readers as to the gravity of the situtation and the need for action. But then, as I'm wont to say, we'll see.....

OK, a couple of news items warranting comment:

Notwithstanding the above warnings, the AP 80 have drafted language which changes the key section 23 of the statute that enables the CA. Specifically, the AP wants to change the language in section 23 pertaining to the referendum that would approve (or not) the work of the CA. The change reads as follows:

Old language: The new Constitution text will be approved "by at least, 50% plus one, of valid votes cast." (This voter base would include all votes cast, yes, no, blanco (ballots not marked), and nulo (ballots defaced.)

New proposed language: The new Constitution text will be approved "by at least, 50% plus one, of the sufragantes." (Sufragantes are understood to be those voting either yes or no on the Constitution; this ballot count base would not include votos in blanco or in nulo.)

In essence, the AP wants to reduce the voter base to exclude blancos and nulos (these have always been counted in all elections which I've observed here over the last six years, and they've been included in the overall vote basis when it comes the calculating the 50% cutoff) so as to make it easier to achieve the 50% plus one goal within a smaller vote base. Nifty, huh?

This time, the AP isn't just usurping legislative powers (again) it's seeking to change the rules of the game so that it's easier for them to win approval of their work, in direct contravention (modification I should say) of the statute that set these guys up in the first place. This is not only wrong, it's pure chutzpah and an insult to the electorate that placed their trust in the AP. (For reasons not clear to me, an Izquierda Democratica guy, Diego Borja, has said that this is cool with him and he's supporting this wrong headed initiative. There's probably some quid pro quo for this duplicity/act of political convenience, but I don't know what it is at this point.)

Anyway, the AP continues to push its unethical and un-Constitutional agenda (I say un-Constitutional because I maintain that the 1999 Constitution still exists and pertains), and we'll have to wait and see if any meaningful resistance to all of this appears.

On another front and posting, I'd expressed approval of the military takeover of the PetroEcuador, and I still do. Unfortunately, the military effectives tasked with keeping the peace in the Dayuma area of Orellana have been charged with arresting and torturing 22 Dayuma residents, which has brought the wrath of the Catholic Church's human rights group and other hr goups down on the heads of the military, and rightfully so. While I still hope the military can clean up PE itself (and peacefully so, I'd hope), these guys clearly need to control themselves in detaining local rioters.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nipping the CA in the Bud

.....There's that old botanical/gardening term, "Nipping it in the bud", which refers to the process of retarding (or eliminating) the growth of a flowering plant.

The phrase comes to mind as I watch the CA busily arrogating all power to itself. Yesterday, the Acuerdo Pais folks, this time with the support (collusion?) of delegates from Pachakutik and the MPD, approved the second part of the governing regs of the CA. This little piece of work says that anything the CA does supersedes the current Constitution and no decision or act taken by any court will abrogate CA acts.

All of this again flaunts the intent of the CA statute, specifically Art. 23 of that act, which clearly says that nothing the CA does can apply until the work of the CA has been ratified by a referendum of the people, subsequent to the conclusion of the CA's work. This is not a matter of asking what part of the statute is it that the AP y don't understand; rather, this is a series of clear and conscious acts of the AP et al to ignore the will of the people and accrue power to itself.

In essence, in my opinion, the CA has declared war on the Constitution and the will of the people. They want change, no doubt about it, and that's why they voted for Correa and that's why the voted for the CA and then for an AP majority in the CA.

However, nowhere, and at no time, did the majority of the people in this country vote for the closure of the sitting Congress, the firing of Correa's political enemies, and the arrogation of all political power and decision making authority to some 80+ (I put it that way, because of the duplicitous acts of the MPD and Pachakutik) people who were elected only, only, to draft a new Constitution, and nothing else.

Already, it's clear, from opinion polls (and reading Ecuadorian blogs, mostly, admittedly, anti-Correa) that most people here are not comfortable with CA actions of the last couple of days. The key question, right now, and early in this quickly deteriorating process, is, what, if anything, can and should be done about these actions?

Well, Alberto Acosta likes to be quoted saying he wants to encourage all kinds of participation, so I'd suggest that Ecuadorians start participating right now, by staging events, strikes, etc., to protest what the CA has done to date.

AP y cia are moving quickly to put us on the slippery slope to another partidocracia (this time, it'll be one big new party, with the initials AP, along with a few little remora parties sucking onto the big shark) that will tell the country what to do and how to do it, and there'll be a ratchet effect to all of this, i.e., once we get along on this process, it'll be extremely hard to reverse it because the AP will make damn sure that they'll stay in control.

For this reason, and right now, people better start speaking up and giving clear direction to the CA and the AP, because later there won't be a chance to nip the process in the bud. Correa y the AP have watched Venezuela and Bolivia closely in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of Chavez and Morales and their allies. The Ecuadorian people should watch those two countries just as closely to make sure that Correa doesn't do a better job of taking this country over and running it like he'd like to: his own "democratic" fiefdom......

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Military and PetroEcuador

.... I hate the comment subjects of some blogs... Boz had posted a comment about Correa's putting the military in charge of PetroEcuador and I wrote long comment over on his blog, only to see it disappear when I went to post it. Oh, well, I should have written something about the same subject here, so here goes.

I should say that I approve of Correa's actions on PetroEcuador at the outset. As readers know, I don't particularly care for Correa's personal style and I disagree with some of his stances, but on this one, I'm with him.

Several factors have given rise to Correa's actions. In no particular order:

1. Disposition of oil revenues. Almost from the start, over 40 years ago, the GOE has extracted oil from the eastern provinces, Sucumbios, Orellana, Napo, Pastaza, y Morona, and its' given very little back to the poor, rural communities in and around the oil fields. Infrastructure and public services to those communities have mostly been poor to nil. Needless to say, resentment against the central government has always been strong, and over all of these same years, there have been repeated strikes, protests, road blockages and outright sabotage of production facilities to demand increased shares of central government oil revenues/benefits to the eastern provinces - and that's what's been happening now in the Orellana community of Dayuma, for the last three weeks or so. There have been acts of sabotage, attacks on the police, road blockages and consequent declines in oil production and revenues during those same weeks. My guess is that the timing of Dayuma incident is not coincidental, as I'll explain below.

2. Local governance and political conflict. Orellana is the home province of ex-President Lucio Gutierrez, one of Correa's principal political enemies, and the Prefect (an Ecuadorian Prefect is roughly analogous to an elected state governor in the States) of Orellana is a member of Gutierrez's political party. My guess (and mine only) is that this lady (the Prefect) chose - or was told to - stir up problems at Dayuma just before the Constituent Assmbly started in order to distract attention from the CA and of course, make Correa and Acuerdo Pais ineffectual in face of the Dayuma violence.

3. Petro Ecuador. It's an incompetent, ineffective, corrupt mess which is a disgrace to this country. (Am I being clear here? :)) Over the last, god knows, how many years, it's been controlled by its labor union, a corrupt and very powerful political cesspool which has siphoned off millions, if not billions of dollars for illicit uses, and which has resisted attempts by successive governments to bring it under control and increase production/revenues for public use. Think PEMEX or the PDVSA union before Chavez destroyed that oufit. I've always maintained that Correa, if he wanted to, has the political support necessary to do something about PetroEcuador and for that matter, UNE, the teachers' union (again, Mexico and its teacher union comes to mind as a parallel) which is another nest of political patronage and financial corruption instrumental in running the shambles that passes for a public eduation system.

PetroEcuador's most recent President, Correa appointee Carlos Pareja never seemed to be able to control or affect PetroEcuador in any way. During his tenure, oil production in Bloc 15, the one seized from Oxy in May 2006, went down as I predicted it would. The PE refinery in Esmeraldas is (in)famous for its poor output. In a widely seen video from earlier this year, Pareja made a unannounced 2:00am visit to the refinery and found the few staff that were present asleep in their office chairs or on the floors; this is all on tape. Later, the union complained that PE staff isn't supposed to make unannounced visits; Pareja said nothing.

4. When Correa came into office, he appointed Gustavo Larrea as his Minister of Government. MinGovernment runs the National Police and is responsible for internal security affairs. When the Dayuma affair broke out, Larrea was in charge of the cops charged with keeping the peace. His best efforts at doing that didn't work. Worse, for reasons not clear to me, Larrea and Pareja gave Correa the impression that they had gotten things under control in and around Dayuma when in fact things were headed south, as they say.

5. Correa finally got clear on what was going on mid-last week, and Thursday he moved in and fired Larrea and Pareja and appointed a Rear Admiral Zurita to take over management of PetroEcuador. As well, he had the military send in 500 regular troops to take over from the frazzled cops. At this writing, violence is still going on, with three dynamitings of production facilities reported today. Still, the local press reports that the government says that oil production is returning to normal.

6. As I said at the beginning of this post, I agree with Correa's actions on this whole mess. He needs to get the violence under control and if the military prove to be good managers (always a big if in a situation like this), that's fine with me. If Zurita and company can really take charge of the PE (and they're not corrupted themselves in the process), then I'd hope that they will clean out the Augean stable that passes for PE staff and union. There are several corrollary issues extant, like what to do with an elected Prefect who's not been helpful, to say the least, and there's also the issues of making the cops more effective and the chronic problem of not getting oil revenues to the very areas that produce the oil - but one or two things at a time, I say.

Finally, in response to Boz's implicit concern (I THINK he's concerned about it) about military involvement in PE and oil business, I can understand it. We've all seen the true military-industrial complexes at work down here in LA, and those arrangements still exist here in Ecuador in some areas, and I'm not a fan of the arreglo myself. Still, in the case of PE, I think we'll need some uniforms in there to show the union that Correa's not messing around. I'll go further and say that I think that Correa and the boots should crush the union and start building a new PE that's honest and competent. A tall order, I admit, but that's what I think needs doing.....

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Things First


We're not off to a good start here with the Constituent Assembly.

The first thing the government bloc in the CA (Acuerdo Pais, with 80 out of 130 seats in the CA) did was to dissolve the sitting Congress and fire the Superintendent of Banks and Insurance (whom Correa did not like) and the Solicitor General of the Republic (with whom Correa got along, but who was sitting on a lot of cases and evidence that could have gotten Correa allies or even Correa himself into trouble somewhere along the line). The Congress and these individuals presented problems of one sort or another for Correa, so they're gone.

Other dignitaries or institutions such as the Attorney General of the Republic have been left alone, either because they're harmless or have been named to their posts by Correa. As well, Correa's bloc has left the Supreme Electoral Tribunal alone (these are the guys that fired 57 of Correa's enemies in the Congress), the Constitutional Tribunal alone (these guys were named essentially by Correa and his allies), and the Supreme Court alone (this is the one truly professional, apolitical tribunal extant; dismissing it would make Correa look obviously and truly bad and also require the dismissal of the CT, which Correa needs), and all of the elected provincial and municipal officials alone.

All of this shows clearly that AP and Correa's first priority is to get rid of real or potential political enemies where they can. At the same time, they're arrogating legislative and regulatory powers to themselves, essentially make the CA the most powerful political entity in country. to be clear, it's the 80 person AP bloc we're talking about, when it comes to firings, etc.; they've all voted for these actions while the 50 person opposition group (definitely not/not a monolithic bloc) voted against all of these actions.

In essence, the AP people have made the CA pretty much like the dictatorial Senate of old Roman times, without the permission of the Ecuadorian people. An opinion poll out today indicates that almost 60% of Ecuadorians polled are not in agreement with the AP's actions (I'll characterize these as AP actions unless oppo folks have voted for the same actions), but at this point, opinions don't matter much to the AP. The AP is very much feeling its political oats and they're going to run things as they see fit, with or without the agreement of other CA Asemblistas. (Note: I shouldn't be surprised if we see this on local t-shirts one of these days: "We're Acuerdo Pais. We don't care, we don't HAVE to care....")

Still, the AP's flaunting of the intent of the CA statute (no action of the CA is valid until it's approved by a referendum, post-CA) is already starting to bother people because these kinds of action are not, repeat not, what the CA states and it's not/not what people had in mind when they voted for change here. Political shenanigans of this sort are pretty much old school tactics which Ecuador has seen before, and people here are wise to these sorts of things.

It's still very, very early in the CA process for sure, but the AP people in particular better be careful; political revenge and power concentration are not what Ecuadorians want. People here want honest, decent, effective governmental institutions and they want jobs and the CA and AP better figure out how to bring those things to pass within a new Constitutional framework.