The small oil-rich Andean country of Ecuador goes to the polls on October 15 to elect a new president. Normally, the US isn't too worried about who wins the presidential sash, as they usually end up dancing to Washington's tune. But this time things might be different.
Like most of its neighbours, Ecuador has experienced chronic
levels of corruption and nepotism. But over the last decade, rather than
tolerating this, the country has "lost" three presidents to popular
uprisings. The Ecuadorian people have lost patience with politicians who
spout rhetoric and "non-core" promises — so they chase them out of the
The most recent in this line of ignominious hucksters was Lucio
Gutierrez, who played a small role in the overthrow of President Jamil
Mahuad in 2000. Sensing popular support for the progressive policies of
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, a fiery critic of Washington, he
styled himself as the Ecuadorian equivalent, got elected in 2002 — and
then implemented US-friendly policies.
In April 2005 this self-styled "dicto-crat" fled via helicopter
from the roof of the presidential palace and protesters chased him down
the airstrip. Simultaneously, the Congress "fired" him, only to find
itself besieged by the same protesters chanting "they all must go".
In such an unstable country, then, it may come as a surprise that
a leading presidential candidate is not only campaigning to "re-found"
the country via a referendum and constituent assembly — like Venezuela
has done and now Bolivia is doing — but is arguing that it should be
made easier to remove the president.