Luis Yerovi Jr.
On November 25, 2002, Ecuadorians awoke to find that
the landscape of their country had changed. No, El Reventador had
not erupted to once again blanket the country in white ash. This time,
the root of the change was a result of human political activity--the
democratic election of Col. Lucio Gutierrez as president. Gutierrez,
a military man of humble origins and an ex-golpista (coup leader)
had been elected President on the backs of Ecuador's indigenous people.
Suddenly, the "invisible" (indigenous peoples) became "visible,"
and for the "visible" (the ruling white minority), their
reality became a crowded one.
Since this historic election, apprehension and hope
have permeated the air in Ecuador's capital, Quito, mixing with the
existing stench of sulfur emanating from El Reventador. What is going
to happen now? Will things really change? These are just some of the
many questions asked by the weary people of Ecuador, burdened by years
of political incompetence and corruption which have rendered their
country bankrupt and subject to social chaos.
"Does Col. Gutierrez have the talent, the charisma
and the coraje to change the future of Ecuador in a positive
In the short time which has passed since the elections,
many indicators suggest that Gutierrez's term is not going to address
the needs of the Ecuadorian majority, especially the forgotten classes
that put him in power. Within Ecuador, he faces a legislative branch
of government that is still firmly in the hands of an intellectually
challenged old guard. These folks refuse to believe that Ecuador is
a nonwhite majority country, despite the overwhelming evidence to
the contrary. As a result of these beliefs, they have promised not
to cooperate with the new government, dismissing Gutierrez's election
as nothing more than a populist victory. This accusation of "populism"
is being used by the entrenched politicians to minimize the voice
of groups which have been exploited for centuries. Where the logic
of the old guard fails is in their inability to differentiate between
the "populism" that put Col. Gutierrez in power and the
"populism" practiced by Alvaro Noboa or Abdala Bucaram.
In this election, the peoples' vote was not a reflection of a na.ve,
illiterate belief in sugarcoated promises, but a product of a collective
indigenous uprising. This uprising was well-organized, informed and
courageous, characteristics lacking among those who pronounce accusations
Several questions remain to be answered in the next
few months. Will Gutierrez stand up to the opposition and push an
agenda favoring the forgotten classes? Will he crush the cancer of
corruption endemic in Ecuadorian politics? Will he puncture the inflated
bureaucracy that asphyxiates Ecuador's monetary reserves? Will he
reduce outrageous military spending?
Unfortunately, I have no illusions regarding an unprecedented
collaboration amongst Ecuador's politicians for the general well-being
of the country. This type of "put our differences aside for the
collective good" behavior does not seem to be in the nature of
Ecuadorian politicians. As a result, Gutierrez will have to advocate
for change largely through the executive branch. However, given his
lack of political connections, formal education, training and experience
in government leadership, his ability to promote an effective and
egalitarian agenda remains suspect.