from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Promising to end “the long night of neoliberalism,” economist Rafael Correa started a four-year term as president of Ecuador in a ceremony in Quito on Jan. 15. Only about 25 of the 100 legislative deputies in the opposition-dominated Congress attended, but there was a large international delegation including nine presidents from the Americas, most of them leftists or social democrats: Evo Morales (Bolivia), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Brazil), Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Rafael Uribe (Colombia), Rene Preval (Haiti), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Nicanor Duarte (Paraguay), Alan Garcia (Peru) and Hugo Chavez (Venezuela). Correa was the third Latin American leftist to take office in less than a week; Chavez and Ortega both had inaugurations on Jan. 10.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also attended. Iran is an important member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and his presence was thought be connected with plans for Ecuador to rejoin OPEC.

Hours after the ceremony, Correa announced his second decree, calling on the Supreme Electoral Council to hold a referendum on March 18 on Correa’s proposal for a Constituent Assembly to replace the 1997 Constitution, which promoted neoliberal economic policies. (Servicio Informativo “Alai-amlatina,” Jan. 15; El Diario-La Prensa, Jan. 16 from AP and EFE)

Correa is Ecuador’s eighth president in 10 years, and none of his seven predecessors served a full term. Correa has little support in Congress, where the rightwing parties strongly oppose the plan for a Constituent Assembly. But an opinion poll conducted by the private firm Cedatos/Gallup Jan. 16-18 in urban areas showed Correa with a 73% approval rating, the highest for any president since the end of military rule in 1979. Congress has an approval rating of 13%, with an unfavorable rating of 68%. (ED-LP, Jan. 21 from EFE) The Congress itself is divided. On Jan. 11 the Patriotic Society Party (PSP) of ex-president Lucio Gutierrez broke with the right-wing parties and announced support for the Constituent Assembly plan. The Cuban wire service Prensa Latina says this could make the center-left and leftist parties the majority, with a 54-vote bloc. (PL, Jan. 12)

Correa also faces pressure from his left. Before his inauguration he condemned Colombia’s decision to resume spraying with the herbicide glyphosate near the country’s border with Ecuador. But after meeting with President Uribe in Managua the week before his inauguration, Correa accepted a compromise in which Colombia would warn Ecuador before spraying so that Ecuadoran technicians could “see that the glyphosate doesn’t pass into Ecuadoran territory.” Environmental, indigenous and campesino organizations denounced the agreement as “Rafael Correa’s first slip.” (Alai-amlatina, Jan. 15)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 21

Following Ecuador’s Nov. 26 presidential runoff election, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal declared Correa the winner with 57.14%, compared to 42.86% for banana tycoo Alvaro Noboa. (La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. ) His vice president is Lenin Moreno Garces, a businessperson and motivational speaker from the Amazon province of Napo who was physically disabled in a shooting nine years ago and gets around in a wheelchair. (Altercom, Ecuador, Nov. 27; El Universo, Guayaquil, Aug. 6)

Correa proposal for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite Ecuador’s Constitution is a key demand of the country’s indigenous and popular movements. He also says he hopes the assembly will make it possible to renegotiate contracts with multinational oil companies. Correa also announced that he will arrange for the state bank to repatriate some $2 billion deposited in the US. (LJ, Nov. 29) While the legislature remains extremely unpopular in Ecuador–Correa referred to it in his campaign as the “sewer of party-ocracy”–Correa denied that he aims to shut it down, though he said he expects it to play a limited role while the Constituent Assembly convenes. (El Universal, Caracas, Nov. 30)

Correa’s party, the Proud and Sovereign Homeland (PAIS) Alliance, did not run any candidates for Congress in the Oct. 15 general elections. The 100-member single-chamber Congress will have 28 deputies from Noboa’s National Action Institutional Renewal Party (PRIAN) and 24 from the Patriotic Society Party (PSP) of populist ex-president Lucio Gutierrez. Another 12 deputies are from the right-wing Social Christian Party (PSC), 12 are from the Democratic Left (ID) party, eight are from the indigenous Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement-New Country alliance and the rest are from various smaller parties. (El Nuevo Herald, Nov. 24 from EFE; Congressional results from, Nov. 16)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 3


Ecuadoran defense minister Guadalupe Larriva was killed when two military helicopters collided on the night of Jan. 24 as the air force carried out a series of nighttime military exercises. Also killed in the crash were one of Larriva’s three children, 17-year-old Claudia Avila Larriva, and five air force officers. According to Hector Camacho, head of the Armed Forces Joint Command, the crash took place near the Puerto Viejo road in Manabi province. Larriva was the head of the small Socialist Party until leftist president Rafael Correa named her to be the first woman to head Ecuador’s military. Correa took office on Jan. 15.

Larriva and the others were riding in two Gazelles, helicopters produced by the French company Eurocopter; they are armed with artillery and use special equipment for night flights. The helicopters had “excellent maintenance,” Camacho said, and the crew was “duly trained.”

The site of the crash is near the Manta military base, which since 1999 has been the main center for US anti-drug activities on South America’s Pacific coast. Correa announced after his election in November that he would not renew the 10-year contract with the US for use of the base when it expires in 2009. On Jan. 22 Larriva repeated the promise. “The Manta base issue is very clear,” she told the daily El Universo. “The agreement ends in 2009, and there is no intention to renew it.” Asked if she expected reprisals from the US, Larriva said: “I expect that won’t happen.”

“It’s not normal for two helicopters to fly together, especially at night, for which reason it is necessary to have a deep and exhaustive investigation,” said Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea, who referred to the accident as “unheard-of.” Gustavo Ayala, the current head of the Socialist Party, also expressed doubts about the causes of the collision. Correa said he believed the crash was “an unfortunate accident,” but he is naming a neutral commission to investigate “so that there is not the least doubt.” After discussions with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and France’s ambassador to Ecuador, Didier Lopinot, Correa announced that the commission would include specialists from Eurocopter and the Chilean air force. Larriva’s son, Rodrigo Avila Larriva, and retired army captain Guillermo Bernal will also be on the commission. (La Jornada, Jan. 26 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Jan. 23, 26 from AP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 27


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also:

WW4 REPORT #124, August 2006

ECUADOR’S CHAVEZ? Rafael Correa and the Popular Movements
by Yeidy Rosa
WW4 REPORT #128, December 2006

From our weblog:

Ahmadinejad tours Latin America
WW4 REPORT, Jan, 22, 2006


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Feb. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution