WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
4 Oct 2010 | News

WOLA article featured in The Guardian: Ecuador’s police revolt will strengthen Rafael Correa

Article written for The Guardian by Senior Associate Adam Isacson

Ecuador's police revolt will strengthen Rafael Correa

Wave of post-uprising popularity should cement the president's position – at least in the short term

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, had about a 50% approval rating before today's events, and will be strengthened politically, at least in the short term, by the uprising and his dramatic rescue.

Correa had been threatening to dissolve the national assembly, which Ecuador's 2009 constitution allows the president to do only once in his term. It is not clear whether he will choose this "nuclear option" now. But either way, he will be riding a wave of post-uprising popularity.

Correa's speech after his rescue showed no desire to heal the wounds. He implied that the press and the opposition were involved, and promised to press on with his "citizens' revolution". Expect Ecuador's political polarisation to grow, as it has in Venezuela and other countries with leftist leaders.

Today's events brought back memories of a time that South America thought it had left behind, when the security forces regularly and violently challenged civilian leaders, such as the failed attempt in Venezuela in April 2002, and the successful one in Honduras in June 2009.

But it's not accurate to call what happened in Ecuador today an attempted coup. It probably started as something less ambitious: the police protesting against a law cutting their fringe benefits. But the protest was unusually well orchestrated. We don't know yet how involved Correa's opponents were.

But as the situation worsened, the uprising edged closer to being a bona fide coup d'etat. People with political agendas did what they could to benefit from the chaos.

What turned the tide was a rapid and decisive response from the international community and from important sectors in Ecuador. The US, the Organisation of American States, and nearly every government in Latin America, right or left, quickly condemned the uprising and declared unconditional support for Correa and Ecuador's constitutional order. The armed forces' high command also opposed it. The most prominent opposition politician, the mayor of the port city of Guayaquil, added his voice as well. Momentum toward a coup stalled, and the police holding Correa at a Quito hospital were isolated.

Ecuador's institutions were able – barely – to channel this political anger and maintain constitutional order. Correa and his opponents must take care not to bend them any further.

To read the article on The Guardian website, click here.