Ecuador. In the second round of the presidential election
held on November 24, surprising civil engineer and former
Army colonel Lúcio Gutiérrez prevailed over the lawyer and
banana magnate Alvaro Noboa. Opinion polls showed during
most of the election campaign that Noboa would win; As late
as August he led and had 29% of the votes, while Gutiérrez
was only supported by 7%.
Countryaah website, Gutiérrez belongs to the left wing in Ecuadorian politics
and became known as one of the leaders behind the coup
attempt on January 21, 2000. His election platform was a new
party whose name recalls the event (Movimiento Sociedad
Patriótica 21 de Enero), and he is supported by Movimiento
Pachakutik, political branch of the Indian movement Conaie
who also participated in the coup attempt.
However, in the first round of elections on October 20,
Movimiento Pachakutik lined up with his own candidate, Auki
Tuaña, who along with Antonio Vargas for Frente Futuro de
Ecuador was the first Indian ever to stand in a presidential
election in Ecuador.
Energy policy was a hot topic during the year. On
February 22, a state of emergency was issued in the
Department of Sucumbíos after protesters occupied the state
oil company Petroecuador's facilities in protest of the
government's privatization policy in the energy field and
against the government's promises of investment in the area.
The protesters, supported by both Conaie and a majority of
congressional parties, also succeeded in stopping the
construction of a new large oil pipeline.
On March 15, 2005, several thousand employees of the
judiciary went on strike in protest of the government's
decision to intervene in the Supreme Court's composition.
Public discontent further escalated when newly appointed
judges canceled the judgments of former presidents Gustavo
Noboa and Abdalá Bucaram, allowing the two to return home
from their exile in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
The opposition claimed that an agreement existed between
Gutiérrez and Bucaram, and with the return of the two
presidents two more protests continued. Throughout April, an
elongated process ripped Gutiérrez's presidential office.
April 13 was marked by extensive demonstrations in Quito
demanding that the Supreme Court judges resign from their
posts and that Gutiérrez be dismissed. 2 days later, he
responded surprisingly again by going on TV surrounded by
the army general and his ministers. In a speech, he declared
the country in a state of emergency, and at the same time,
by decree, dismissed the 31 Supreme Court judges. However,
the protesters in Quito ignored the state of emergency and
this was canceled only 19 hours after being introduced. On
April 17, Congress ratified the purge within the Supreme
Court and passed a law reform in the judiciary. On the 18th.
April, thousands of protesters walked the streets again
demanding Gutiérrez's departure. The opposition declared its
readiness to remove the president while the US ambassador
negotiated with the various parties to the conflict.
By April 20, Gutiérrez had been ousted by Congress and
had lost his support in the armed forces. He therefore
sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy and sought asylum in
Brazil. Vice President Alfredo Palacio was inaugurated as
new president with the backing of the armed forces.
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Riceurged Ecuador to
solve its problems through dialogue and peace, but refrained
from recognizing the country's new president. Washington had
close ties to Gutiérrez, who on several occasions was
referred to as a friend, and it was with him that the United
States had signed the agreement on Ecuador's entry into the
US Free Trade Area. But President Palacio had barely joined
before Foreign Trade Minister Oswaldo Molestina declared
that the basis Ecuador had negotiated his admission to would
be thoroughly analyzed, and at the same time several members
of the negotiating delegation were fired. Palacio
immediately came under heavy pressure from various sectors
of the Ecuadorian community, and thousands of protesters
walked the streets again - this time to protest the United
States; especially after the superpower refused to recognize
Palacio as the country's president.