Education International
Education International

EI condemns coup attempt in Ecuador

published 11 October 2010 updated 11 October 2010

With the overthrow of President Zelaya in Honduras still a fresh memory, EI has condemned the attempted coup in Ecuador, and expressed its commitment to defending the principle of democratically elected governments in all regions.

On 30 September, what started as a police protest over possible benefit cuts got out of hand when angry police fired tear gas and attacked Ecuador’s President Correa as he confronted them at an army barracks. When the police began rioting, segments of the air force took over and shut down airports and suspended flights, and civilian groups joined the uprising. Protesters then surrounded the building, trapping the President inside for more than 12 hours.

President Correa was eventually rescued by special soldiers and declared that the unrest amounted to a coup attempt, which plunged the country into a state of emergency.

The protests are the most serious challenge for President Correa, a former university economics professor, who took office in 2007 and won a second term in 2009, promising a social revolution to benefit the poor. He was previously the Minister for Economy but was forced to resign after four months when he publicly criticised the World Bank for denying Ecuador a loan.

Recent figures show that President Correa’s government has doubled spending on healthcare, increased social spending, and successfully dealt with U$S3.2 billion of foreign debt that was found to be illegally contracted. Ecuador's economy has also managed to escape 2009 without a recession, and is projected to grow by 2.5 per cent this year.

Noting the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that illegally removed President Zelaya from his elected position and homeland, Ecuador’s President said: "We had intelligence reports that said that after Zelaya, I'm next." This prediction almost turned out to be true.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) condemned the attempted coup. UNASUR Secretary General, Néstor Kirchner, stated: "South America cannot tolerate that corporative interests threaten and pressure democratically elected governments for fear of losing undue privileges."

In a statement issued after an emergency summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández was joined by Evo Morales of Bolivia, Juan Santos of Colombia, Sebastián Piñera of Chile, Alan García of Peru, José Mujica of Uruguay, and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, as well as delegates from Brazil and Paraguay, to react to the police rebellion that challenged Ecuador’s government.

They expressed "strong commitment" to the preservation of democracy, "vigorously" condemned "the attempted coup and the kidnapping of President Rafael Correa," and called for those responsible to be tried and sentenced.

They also stated they "will not tolerate any further challenge to constitutional authority or any attempted coup against civil power legitimately elected, and in the case of future crises, will take immediate measures, such as closing borders, suspending trade, air traffic and the provision of energy and services."

Argentine professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires, Atilio Borón, said: "The UNASUR response, alongside the Ecuadorian people's defence of democracy as they poured out onto the streets, was more forceful than in the case of Honduras, and decisive in preventing the conspiracy escalating into a full coup, which was the ultimate objective of the police riot."

Although the final declaration did not specifically mention Honduras, the spectre of the 2009 coup in which President Zelaya was removed from his home at gunpoint and put on a plane out of the country was palpable.

Argentine Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, said UNASUR countries would not let the crisis escalate, adding: "We are going to draw the line at Honduras."

The UNASUR bloc has not recognised the Honduran leader, and in South America, the only countries that have renewed relations with Honduras are Colombia, Peru and Chile.