July 2, 2015
In recent weeks the Ecuadorean opposition has been staging several protests against President Rafael Correa’s government. Despite initially claiming the round of protests was directed at two tax laws proposed by the government, after the president announced he was halting the laws and opening the debate the opposition now claims it was never about these laws.
Now their rhetoric revolves around a wide array of issues, from the government’s plan to promote the use of induction ovens in order to save energy, up to the allegedly growing crime rates.
Protests have often turned violent, although no major injuries or deaths have been registered. However there is a common trait to all of them: opposition demonstrators are seeking to provoke a confrontation with government supporters.
In striking difference to other countries, protests in Ecuador can change their route and are not required to have previous authorization by law enforcement officials.
This has paved the way for the opposition to launch caravans and lengthy marches which begin in one point and unexpectedly change their destination.
The strategy has been constantly denounced by the government. Ever since the May 1 marches, President Correa has warned that the local opposition is emulating tactics seen in Venezuela. In April 2015, the president announced a startling prediction.
“I can anticipate the (opposition’s) strategy: mobilizations, provocations, victimizations,” he said during an interview.
Even in small numbers, protests have continued since May, some of them more violent than others.
Correa’s denunciation was not far-fetched.
In early July, Ecuadorean intelligence officials uncovered a coup plot that sought to deliberately provoke clashes between opposition demonstrators, state security forces, and government supporters near the presidential palace.
The 2002 coup in Venezuela, which ousted former President Hugo Chavez for 48 hours, began after an anti-government march attempted to reach another pro-government rally, close to the Miraflores Presidential Palace, prompting clashes.
The most recent round of protests in Ecuador began when President Correa left for Brussels, in early June, to attend the EU-CELAC Summit. In similar fashion, a fresh round of protests in Venezuela broke out in January, when President Nicolas Maduro left for an international tour to Russia, Algeria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, seeking more stability in oil prices.
Furthermore, on June 24, 2015, the president of Venezuela’s Parliament, Diosdado Cabello, revealed that political consultant Armando Briquet – who is also a senior member of far-right party Justice First in Venezuela – was working closely with the Ecuadorean opposition.
Around the same date, a video shared on social media showed unidentified Venezuelans promoting the opposition’s protests in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. The right-wing mayor of Quito, Maurico Rodas, has recently opted to also participate in opposition protests.
Ecuadorean politician and writer Fernando Buendia has compared Rodas with Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles due to his ties to international right-wing political organizations.
But other right-wing leaders from around the region could also be playing an important role in promoting the momentum that the Ecuadorean opposition has gained.
Ever since leaving office, former Colombian president – now senator – Alvaro Uribe vowed to fight the late President Chavez. This apparently also applies to Chavez’ legacy in the region, as Uribe also admitted proudly that he would work as an adviser to the Venezuelan and Ecuadorean oppositions.
During Ecuador’s general elections campaign in 2012, President Correa warned that the opposition was holding weekly meetings with Uribe who was helping them.
President Correa has singled out as a key figure Colonel Mario Pazmiño, who was in charge of the Army’s intelligence when Colombian troops – commanded by President Uribe – illegally entered Ecuador through the border of Angostura in a raid against guerrilla fighters in 2008.
The retired Colonel withheld information regarding the attack, which he had accessed even before it happened, from the Army and the government. Pazmiño was put under investigation, for failing to brief the president on details regarding the attack. Soon more information was revealed which pointed at the possibility of a United States army jet participating in the bombings in Angostura, launched from a former base in Manta, which was then operated by the U.S. army. Despite not being harshly punished –
Pazmiño was put under investigation, for failing to brief the president on details regarding the attack. Soon more information was revealed which pointed at the possibility of a United States army jet participating in the bombings in Angostura, launched from a former base in Manta, which was then operated by the U.S. army.
Despite not being harshly punished – Pazmiño was discharged from the army – from there on, he has dedicated his efforts to speaking against the government. He even ran for Parliament in the 2012 elections.
It was not until 2013 that the Ecuadorean government pressed charges against the retired general, who attempted to claim that the Correa administration was linked to international drug cartels.
This allegation is now being picked up by the opposition’s campaign. Just as in Venezuela, the government is being blamed for a wide number of issues which seem to have no connection.
Violence, corruption, drug trafficking, delinquency, and dictatorship. These are the flags that both opposition groups are using to call for protests.
The 2014 protests in Venezuela that led to the death of 43 people, mostly government supporters, began as a demand by students to have more safety in their universities’ campuses. Soon they snowballed into delinquency, corruption, lack of democracy, and anything else that could spark anger.
Today the same discourse is used in Ecuador. A new campaign entitled “Let him not rule” presents three videos which portray the alleged insecurity in the country, widespread injustice and corruption.
The recent protests by the Ecuadorean opposition have used a similar discourse to the Venezuelan opposition, repeatedly referring to Correa as a “dictator”, chanting for “freedom,” and even now one group is talking about “the exist” (la salida), just as the violent opposition barricaders called for earlier last year.