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Ecuador - Politics

Recent Presidents

Supreme Government Council11 Jan 197610 Aug 1979Mil
Jaime Roldós Aguilera10 Aug 197924 May 1981CFP
Luis Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea24 May 198110 Aug 1984DP-UDC
León Esteban Febres-Cordero Ribadeneyra10 Aug 198410 Aug 1988PSC
Rodrigo Borja Cevallos10 Aug 198810 Aug 1992ID
Sixto Alfonso Durán Ballén Cordovez10 Aug 199210 Aug 1996PUR
Abdala Jaime Bucaram Ortiz10 Aug 199606 Feb 1997PRE
Fabián Ernesto Alarcón Rivera11 Feb 199710 Aug 1998FRA
Jorge Jamil Mahuad Witt10 Aug 199821 Jan 2000DP-UDC
Council of State ("Junta of National Salvation")21 Jan 200022 Jan 2000Mil
Gustavo José Noboa Bejarano22 Jan 200015 Jan 2003DP-UDC
Lucio Edwin Gutiérrez Borbúa15 Jan 200320 Apr 2005PSP
Luis Alfredo Palacio González20 Apr 200515 Jan 2007Non-party
Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado15 Jan 2007PAIS
Lenín Voltaire Moreno Garces201720??PAIS

Political crisis is, for all practical purposes, a constant in this country. Ecuador has been caught in cycles of political instability, reflecting popular disillusionment with traditional power structures and weak institutions. Ecuador's political parties have historically been small, loose organizations that depend more on populist, often charismatic, leaders to retain support than on programs or ideology. Frequent internal splits have produced great factionalism. Beginning with the 1996 election, the indigenous population abandoned its traditional policy of shunning the official political system and participated actively. The indigenous population established itself as a force in Ecuadorian politics, and participated in the Gutierrez administration before joining the opposition.

Regional and class divisions stymie efforts for reform. Inequalities permeate society, business, and the political life of the country. Those at the top of the pyramid do not necessarily accept, as possible or even desirable, the premise that "a rising tide lifts all boats." Meanwhile, regional rivalries -- especially between Quito in the highlands and Guayaquil on the coast -- are so deeply divisive that they seriously impede any initiatives of national scope and vision.

Ecuadorian elites see the economy as a zero-sum game, which leads to a constant scramble for pieces of the same pie. Many Ecuadorians were disillusioned with democracy after 25 years marked by rampant corruption. One of the root causes of Ecuador's economic and democratic ills is Ecuador's corporatist structure which allows the country's elites to capture the majority of the country's wealth. Various groups compete to grab wealth from the government which controls all the country's resources in a rent-seeking system. Poor education among the general population, and common attitudes, such as leftist tendencies which tend to place all the blame on the US, allow the country's elites to get away with capturing all the country's wealth, stifling efforts to create a stable middle class. Judicial corruption is also used to control the country's resources.

Ecuador was long the banana republic of banana republics. Six of the fourteen Latin American governments which have not finished their terms since 1989 were in Ecuador. Each of the last three democratically elected presidents of Ecuador has been deposed, and each ex-president has been forced into exile by the prospect of questionable criminal proceedings against him. President Palacio is the tenth president of Ecuador since 1996 (counting a presidential triumvirate which lasted three hours, and another president who lasted a day). The removal of President Lucio Edwin Gutiérrez Borbúa and installation of Luis Alfredo Palacio González as a new caretaker president on 20 April 2005 ended the latest in Ecuador's sad series of political cycles. Gutierrez' fall was the result of a complex interplay of interests and actions, but the crucial factors were: Gutierrez' and his government's own repeated, foolish, tactical errors, plotting by traditional political elites, especially Leon Febres Cordero's Social Christians and the Democratic Left, to bring down the outsider and take back control of the government, and, finally, the frustration of Quito's middle class with the misdeeds of the political elite combined with their fear of the "great unwashed" from the coast. In fact, the fall of Gutierrez is simply the dramatic peak of the established Ecuadorian political cycle which had come to consist of elections every four years and the overthrow of the elected president at the mid-term. After decades of social and economic instability including the frequent changing of presidents, Alianza Pais under Rafael Correa lifted more than 1 million people out of poverty, tripled tax income and expanded the country’s universal health care and education system.

The National Police maintain internal security and law enforcement. The military is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities, including combating organized crime. Both the police and military are in charge of border enforcement. Migration officers are civilians and report to the Ministry of Interior. The National Police are under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, and the military is under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense. The National Police’s internal affairs unit investigates killings by police and examines whether they were justified. The unit can refer cases to the courts. An intelligence branch within the military has a role similar to the police internal affairs unit. The law states that the Public Prosecutor’s Office must be involved in all investigations concerning human rights abuses, including unlawful killings and forced disappearance.

Corruption, insufficient training, poor supervision, and a lack of resources continued to impair the effectiveness of the National Police. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police and the armed forces. The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, although some problems with impunity existed.

Generally, individuals could discuss matters of general public interest publicly or privately without reprisal, although various civil society groups, journalists, and academics argued that the law limited their freedom of expression and restricted independent media. Under the communications law, media outlets are also legally responsible for the opinions of their contributors. Independent of this law, it is illegal to threaten or insult the president or executive branch, and penalties for violators range from six months to two years’ imprisonment or a fine from $16 to $77.

Freedom House rated the country as “not free” for a third consecutive year in 2015, but in 2016 and 2017 Ecuador's ranking rose to "Partly Free". The freedom of expression watchdog group Fundamedios reported that 2015 was the worst year for freedom of expression, and particularly for the press, since it began its monitoring in 2008, with 368 “aggressions” on journalists, a 44 percent increase from 2014. President Correa continued to attack private newspapers and encouraged followers to buy only public newspapers. Regulatory bodies created under the law monitored and disciplined the media through a combination of legal and administrative sanctions.

Progressive candidate and renowned disability activist from the ruling Alianza Pais party, Lenin Moreno, won the Ecuadorean presidential election 02 April 2017. As Rafael Correa departed after 10 years of consecutive rule and a number of social gains made under the Citizens’ Revolution, the victory for Moreno was seen as key not only for Ecuador but for the wider Latin American region. Ecuador would remain a part of the pink tide that swept the region in the past two decades, not following the right-wing shift that took place in 2016 in Argentina and Brazil.

For many supporters of former President Rafael Correa, the February 2018 referendum marked yet another attempt by the increasingly right-wing administration of Lenin Moreno to dismantle the legacy and the achievements of the country's 10-year-long process of change. The reactionary nature of Moreno's government became more apparent when analysing the different groups and individuals that have pledged to support the "Yes" vote for each question. Prominent political figures on the right, such as Jaime Nebot and the Social Christian Party, Guillermo Lasso and the conservative CREO party, and former President Abdala Bucaram, who was removed from office on the grounds of and embezzlement, have all actively campaigned in support of the "Yes" vote. The private media outlets that have traditionally opposed Correa's government and played a prominent role during the 2010 coup, such as the newspapers El Commercio, El Universo and TV stations Ecuavsia and Teleamazonas, had also been broadcasting messages and adverts in support of the "Yes" campaign.

Since being elected on the platform of continuing the left-wing economic policies of the Correa administration in May 2017, Moreno has undertaken a number of actions that won praise from the right-wing political opposition. Commencing a "national dialogue" of reconciliation, he proceeded to foster closer cooperation with members of the opposition such as Jaime Nebot and Abdala Bucaram Jr., going as far as appointing individuals close to the latter's family. At the same time, he began to mimic the opposition's previous rhetoric about high levels of public debt and corruption, after criticising the 10-year period of Correa's administration (during six of which he served as his vice-president) for economic mismanagement and excessive public and social spending.

He then proceeded to replace the administrations of public newspaper El Telegrafo and the publicly owned Ecuador TV in July 2017. The control and distribution of electronic cash, long demanded by Ecuador's financial and corporate sector, was then transferred from the hands of the Central Bank of Ecuador to the Association of Private Banks. Most prominent of all, he supported the corruption allegations regarding now-dismissed Vice-President Jorge Glas, seen by many as a staunch loyalist of Correa.



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