ECUADOR: New president promises 'deep and permanent' reforms

Issue 

BY FEDERICO FUENTES

BUENOS AIRES — Even before Lucio "Lucho" Gutierrez was inaugurated as president of Ecuador on January 15, he had made it very clear what he planned to do. "I am determined to change this nation or die trying", said Gutierrez at a press conference on January 12, reported the January 13 Pagina 12 . "I want to make deep and permanent reforms to this political system... I am going to call on the people to mobilise and Lucio Gutierrez will be at the head of the mobilised people."

Gutierrez's first project as president is to reform the constitution. Through a process of popular consultations, which will begin at the end of January after it is approved by parliament, followed by a plebiscite, Gutierrez believes that the people of Ecuador will vote for changes which include the depoliticisation of the court system, a reduction in the numbers of members of Congress and the extradition of corrupt bankers who have fled to the US and other countries.

Gutierrez has also set at one-month target to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a standby loan of US$240 million. As part of this campaign, Gutierrez will meet with US President George Bush on February 11. Gutierrez said he wants to "talk about the real issue of the external debt, which cannot be treated as a statistic, as a number. The external debt needs to be taken for what it is — a very serious social and humanitarian problem which needs a political answer."

At the January 12 press conference, Gutierrez also said that he anticipates that he is "going to confront all the political forces" to achieve his goals. He declared that "all of the ex-presidents" who were "responsible for the national disaster ... should be in jail . Gutierrez also stated that he would enact an executive decree which would prohibit members of outgoing president Gustavo Noboa's government from leaving the country because "many of them will have to explain investments, costs and the waste of excessive amounts of money".

In response to claims that he was preparing to dismiss 27 officers from the armed forces and replace them with personnel who are closer to him, Gutierrez said he would respect the constitution but did not deny that he would take such actions.

In January 2000, Gutierrez, who is himself a colonel, played a part in an insurrection led by Ecuador's indigenous people and peasants who took power for a number of days. At the time, most of the high-ranking officers in the armed forces supported the government.

Gutierrez must coexist with a parliament with a hostile majority bloc, led by the Social Christian Party. After first considering a new congressional election, Gutierrez said he had discarded that option and is investigating other methods to deal with the situation.

From Green Left Weekly, January 29, 2003.

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