Ecuador, 2 months after the revolution

Tuesday, 14 March 2000
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Since the revolution in January, in which the masses took power for a few hours and were betrayed, Ecuador seems to have returned to normal. The new president Noboa gave the go-ahead to a package of laws which mean the "dollarisation" of the economy, the deregulation of the labour market and massive privatisations. But inevitably, these measures are preparing the way for a new social explosion.

Since the revolution in January, in which the masses took power for a few hours and were betrayed, Ecuador seems to have returned to normal. President Mahuad was replaced by his vice president Noboa who promised to follow the same policies as his predecessor. True to his word, on Thursday 9th March Noboa gave the go-ahead to the law of Economic Transformation, popularly known as the "trolley bus law". At the same time, the World Bank announced that it was heading a list of international credit organisations that were going to lend Ecuador somewhat more than 2 billion dollars.

The "trolley bus law" means the application of all those measures against which the Ecuadorean masses fought in January : the "dollarization" of the country, the massive privatisation of the public sector and the deregulation of the labour market which in practise means the abolition of all workers rights and the introduction of piecework.

But inevitably, these measures are preparing the way for a new social explosion. Already, the oil workers, who were in the vanguard of the revolution in January, announced a complete stoppage of work and on Friday 3rd March (when the congress approved the law) suspended the pumping of oil in the TransEcuador pipeline. The Co-ordinator of Social Movements, the National Confederation of Indigenous Organisations of Ecuador, the Parliament of the People and the Patriotic Front have already announced a national mobilisation for March 21st.

The betrayal of the revolution of 21st January didnít mean the dismantling of the movement. On the 23rd January, Jorge Loor Cevallos, second vice president of the Parliament of the People of Ecuador and the president of the peasant organisation CONFEUNASSC issued a challenge to the new government based on a 6 point plan (no to the "dollarization", no to the privatisation, a moratorium on foreign debt, political reform, a plan of investment in the countryside and an unfreezing of bank accounts). "And if this isn't done? The reply will come from the people of Ecuador and their ability to mobilise for change and without doubt we will see a national uprising and of course we will lookout for traitors and not fall into their trap, we will return to government."

The main indigenous leader, Antonio Vargas took the same line. "If the president continues with the same policies there will be no change and the same problems will arise. In 3 months or in 6 months the same thing will happen. But the next time it won't be only the indigenous people but all the people of Ecuador and it will be much stronger."

Its obvious that the government of Noboa is going to have many difficulties carrying out its plans. The masses of peasants, workers, small businessmen and students which brought down the government of Mahuad on 21st January have not changed their attitude and have learnt much in the process. The experience of having overthrown a government, of having established parliaments of the people by means of a mobilisation of the masses and of having won over important sectors of the military to their side in the struggle is an experience which wonít be erased from the conscience of the masses.

The most recent opinion polls indicate that 80% of the people of Ecuador disapprove of the management of the Congress and 69% disapprove of the Supreme Court of Justice. Also, 67% of the population are in favour of an amnesty for the soldiers who took part in the uprising and 71% are for an amnesty for the peasants leaders.

The CONAIE are proposing a popular initiative for holding a referendum over its 6 point plan. Constitutionally, to force a referendum you need 500,000 signatures but they are hoping for 5 million.

Its clear that the ruling class of Ecuador is in a very difficult situation and the only thing that saved them on the 21st January was the vacillation and the confusion of the movements leadership. For this reason, it is crucial that the workers and peasants movement open a thorough debate into the causes of the January betrayal. Its necessary to democratise the popular parliaments with the election and right to recall all its components. Its necessary to win over the troops and the middle sectors of the military to the side of the revolutionary movement and this mustnít be done on the basis of compromise or accords from above but by forming soldiers committees and integrating them into the peoples parliaments. Above all it is necessary to put forward a program which brings together the most pressing of the masses demands (against 'dollarization", privatisation, deregulation of the labour market, foreign debt, etc.) with the need for a socialist transformation of society. Understanding that the main lesson of the economic crisis in Ecuador in the last few years is that it cannot be solved by the capitalist system.

The masses of Ecuador have shown the way in exemplary fashion in the last decade. Armed with a clear direction and a socialist program nothing will stop them.