Wednesday, March 07, 2007

...And the Cat Fight Goes On

OK, it looks like the promising blog (well, it was promising for me, anyway) (part II) isn't getting off the ground, so, hell, I'LL say something about what's been going on lately.

Starting from today and working backwards, just to the beginning of this month:

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (a group of seven magistrates selected by the Ecuadorian Congress, and empowered to oversee electoral processes for the next two years, or next election - including the pleibescite on the Constituent Assembly, see below) came out today saying that they're contemplating firing 52 Congressional Diputados for having approving the firing of the TSE's President, Jorge Acosta yesterday.

Acosta was fired yesterday by 52 guys and gals from the three largest political parties in Congress (Lucio Gutirrez's PSP, Alvaro Noboa's PRIAN, and Jamie Nebot's PSC) because he cast the deciding/decisive vote (four to three) for the TSE in approving the pleibescite for the Constituent Assembly, and fixing the date for the Pleibescite for April 15. Correa's Minister of Economy and Finances has already set aside funds for the Pleibescite (about $20m) and administratively, at least, the thing's on track to happen. Politically, though, it's another matter, because the statute approved by Acosta and company on March 1 contains all the wording approved by President Rafael Correa and his supporters, and ignores the wording approved by Congress in late February.

3) What's the big difference in the wording? Without going into all the details regarding who members of the Constituent Assmbly can be and how they can get there (more later on this), the big point of contention is the authority of the Assembly to mandate changes in the system of government here. Correa asked for (and the TSE approved) a blank check approach giving the Assembly and its members plenipotentiary powers to do just about anything they want in terms of deleting/changing/establishing governmental institutions (including Congress itself, the entire court system, the TSE, etc.). Congress, not surprisingly, approved a much narrower concept, empowering a Constituent Assembly to make changes, just as long as they made no/no changes to the Congress and the other institutions of government - in essence mandating no change of exactly the kind that Correa y cia posited in their campaign to power.

At this point then, there appears to be the classic train wreck coming up of an immovable object standing up to an irresistible force. The traditional political parties in Congress (the PSP, PSC and PRIAN, plus assorted allies) are doing everything they can to block, delay, or derail the Constituent Assembly process, or failing that, geld the CA such that it will be unable to produce any substantive changes in the way politics are done, particularly in Congress, and during elections.

In doing this, of course, the traditional parties (the "partidocracia" as Correa calls them) are giving more and more credibility to Correa and the points he makes about them being corrupt, unscrupulous types who mean to keep control of principal governmental (non-executive branch) institutions.

Those same institutions - the courts, the TSE, the Contralor de la Republica (chief auditor of the entire government), the Fiscal General (kind of like the Solicitor General of the U.S. but not the Attorney General, which is controlled by the executive branch) have all been controlled/manipulated by the partidocracia over the years to favor friends/attack enemies, and the system has served the power pols very well - and now it's all at risk because of Correa.

Correa has correctly identified this whole arrangement - the partidocracia, and its control of political and budgetary levers - as the root of most of the problems afflicting politics, the economy, and the whole country. Most of the electorate agrees with him on this, and in fact, polls show support for the Constituent Assembly at around 80-82%. That support notwithstanding, the partidocracia has no intention of participating in its own demise, and hence all of the roadblocks, strategems, scheming, and general political skulduggery on their part to slow or stop the reform process.

The events of the last couple of days - the firing of Acosta (who was named by Lucio Gutierrez, btw) and response of the TSE itself - stem from the fact that the TSE has always been controlled completely by the partidocracia, and now this act of political independence/defiance on the part of one of Gutirrez's made men has handed the advantage to Correa. Gutierrez and his allies had hoped that by firing Acosta that they could simply reverse the March 1 decision taken under Acosta's leadership and thus hobble the CA process further. They hadn't counted, though, on the fact that Acosta would not roll over and leave; instead he's stayed in the TSE, gotten Correa's government to prohibit the entry of another guy named by Gutierrez to take his job. At this point, then, around 5:30 pm, this date, we've got a standoff between Correa and partidocracia... More tomorrow.....

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