JOURNAL OF THE 24TH YEAR
Japan's Fukushima Disaster
The Shura Case
Death Row Inmates Exonerated
NUGGETS FROM THE NUT HOUSE
From Netanyahu to Mladic
Edward S. Herman
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Veterans Support Manning
Double Dip Recession
Iara Lee's Culture of Resistance
Len Weinglass (1933-2011)
Michael Steven Smith
Checkmate In The Great Game
Nicolas J.S. Davies
The Colonial Predator Legacy
Against Corporatocracy Rule
Bruce E. Levine
The Mideast & South Central Asia
Bin Laden and the Arab "Awakening"
From Poppies to Fentanyl Lollipops
The Lacandon Jungle and the Carbon Market
Displacing People for Profit
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Ecuador's Referendum Reveals a Fragmented Country
In a referendum on May 7, Ecuadorians voted on ten questions relating to constitutional, judicial, political, and social issues. In the run-up to the vote, many observers saw the election as a plebiscite on President Rafael Correa’s four years in office and his prospects of winning reelection in 2013, rather than a contest over any specific issues that the referendum raised.
Exit polls initially indicated that Rafael Correa had walked away with his sixth sequential electoral victory since initially winning the presidency in 2006. Social movement activists and left dissidents quickly insisted that the exit polling firms had distorted the data. The race was much closer than some believed, they contended.
For Correa, a clear and strong political rationale fueled his decision to hold the referendum. Following a surge of popularity in the aftermath of a failed September 30, 2010 police uprising that threatened his political position, a win in the referendum would allow Correa to hold on to power.
The referendum began as a single issue of reforming the penal code to extend the period of pre-trial detention for criminals in order to address issues of public security. It then expanded to a total of ten issues. The first five questions would amend the new 2008 constitution and the remaining five touched on issues of wide ranging social, political, and economic significance.
The key questions in the referendum were about reforming a judicial system that Correa saw as corrupt and inefficient, as well as allowing an expansion of the president’s executive power. Passage of the first two questions would cancel the constitutional limit on the length of preventive detention, with a goal of accelerating the pace of criminal cases in the judicial system. The third question would limit the overlap between media companies and the banking sector, in particular restricting private banks from owning other companies and forbidding private media companies from participating in other economic ventures in order to prevent conflicts of interest. This question was important because the press remained firmly in the hands of the traditional oligarchy and was solidly opposed to the current government.
The fourth would completely overhaul what many saw as a corrupt, inefficient, and ineffective judicial system. The fifth would expand the council that appoints judges to include representatives from other branches of government. Opponents argued that this measure would make it possible for the president to limit the independence of the courts, essentially constituting a power grab. Correa, on the other hand, claimed that such steps were necessary to curtail corruption, overcome paralysis in the judicial system, and make the judiciary more efficient.
A second set of five questions touched on a broad set of non-constitutional issues. The sixth would criminalize the illegal acquisition of wealth in the private realm, something that was already classified as a crime in the public sector. The seventh question would ban casinos and gambling. The eighth would outlaw the mistreatment or killing of animals for entertainment. This question would be decided on a local level. Of the ten questions, this one faced the strongest challenge, particularly in areas such as
The ninth question would create a regulatory council to monitor violent, explicitly sexual, or discriminatory content in both broadcast and print media. Many opponents interpreted this measure as an attempt to limit the freedom of the media in order to muzzle dissent and this was one of the most controversial questions on the referendum.
The final question required employers to register their employees in the Social Security Institute. This was the least controversial of the proposals and enjoyed the highest level of popular support.
As the May 7 vote approached, a variety of campaigns both for and against the referendum moved into high gear. First was the traditional conservative and now largely discredited oligarchy that, with Correa’s presidency, had lost its 200-year grasp on political power. Although out of government, they continued to have a stranglehold on the media and used this to attack and denounce Correa at any opportunity. Leading this opposition were such figureheads as Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot from the conservative Partido Social Cristiano (PSC, Social Christian Party) and billionaire Álvaro Noboa, perennial losing presidential candidate of the Partido Renovador Institucional Acción Nacional (PRIAN, National Action Party of Institutional Renewal).
Second were political opponents grouped around Lucio Gutiérrrez of the Partido Sociedad Patriótica (PSP, Patriotic Society Party). A career military officer, Gutiérrrez initially came into the public’s eye on January 21, 2000 when he joined with indigenous movements in a coup that removed Jamil Mahuad from power after he’d implemented drastic neoliberal economic policies of privatization and the dollarization of the economy.
Although the coup failed, with the support of his indigenous allies, Gutiérrez won the presidency two years later. In power, however, the former colonel quickly moved rightward and embraced the same neoliberal polices he had previously denounced, thus alien- ating his social movement base.
Nevertheless, Gutiérrez managed to maintain a strong base of support in the central highland indigenous communities. Reflecting
A third group of leftist dissidents, former Correa allies, charged that the concentration of power in Correa’s hands served to rollback the expansion of direct democracy embodied in
Following Acosta, four congressional deputies and two cabinet ministers left Correa’s political coalition to join the opposition. Most significantly, these included Alexandra Ocles, an Afro-Ecuadorian woman who was the minister of the secretariat of Pueblos, Movimientos Sociales y Participación Ciudadana (SPPC, Peoples, Social Movements, and Citizen Participation), a fourth branch (together with the executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral) of the government. These dissidents released a statement that, while they embraced the positive changes in
These former allies viewed the referendum as a naked power grab by the president that betrayed the principles of their political project. Correa denounced their actions as a personal betrayal of his government. Acosta countered that, while he supported referendums and agreed with some of the issues, he opposed Correa’s attempts to blur divisions between branches of government. In particular, he urged defense of the independence of the judiciary.
Social movements formed a final axis of opposition to the referendum. Most notable were the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and Popular Democratic Movement (MDP). Founded in 1986, CONAIE gained a reputation for being one of the strongest and best organized social movements when, in 1990, it led a powerful uprising that challenged the oligarchy’s hold on power. In 1995, it helped organize the political coalition Movimiento Unidad Plurinacional Pachakutik (MUPP, Pachakutik Movement for Plurinational Unity) to compete for political office.
The MPD formed the electoral wing of the Maoist Partido Comunista Marxista Leninista Ecuatoriano (PCE, Ecuadorian Marxist Leninist Communist Party) and drew much of its support from teachers in the Unión Nacional de Educadores (UNE, National Union of Educators). While in power, Correa had worked to divide and destroy both indigenous movements and teachers’ unions who were able to mobilize bases of support separate from those that formed the president’s electoral alliance. As a result, activists who otherwise might form Correa’s base of support became his sworn enemies. For them, government attempts to improve public security meant the criminalization of dissent.
In alliance with the CONAIE and the MPD, Acosta launched a movement called Montecristi Vive to oppose the referendum. In the coastal city of
What Does the Outcome Mean?
Although many saw the referendum as a test of confidence in Correa’s government, voters apparently also voted on the basis of each individual question. As a result, seeing the outcome as a reflection of Correa’s popularity is simplistic and perhaps mistaken.
The urban poor remain Correa’s base, though he has lost much of the support of
Correa’s strongest base of support in the referendum was on the coast that in recent years has voted heavily for conservative candidates. Some social movement activists pointed to this as evidence of the rightward drift in Correa’s government, but it could equally represent a new fragmentation of Ecuadorian politics along class rather than regional lines. This development had already been apparent in recent elections in the coast
Likewise, central highland indigenous communities were one of the strongest bastions of opposition to the referendum. On the surface, it might appear that this represented a resurgence of CONAIE and Pachakutik, but these are also the areas where Gutiérrez has his strongest base of support and thus should be interpreted as a right wing rather than left opposition to Correa.
After winning six elections and with his popularity rating hovering around 60 percent, sociologist Jorge León contends that the referendum had little to do with the president wishing to consolidate or expand his power. Rather, León argued, it related to his psychological need to be loved and adored by the people. Furthermore, with an election still two years away, a referendum would be a way for Correa to demonstrate that his opponents had little weight or presence.
Correa remains the most popular politician that
Social movements in particular desire a president who is less authoritarian, less abrasive, less polarizing, and more responsive to their needs. More than anything, though, the referendum revealed a deeply fractured country that appears to be becoming even more divided along race, class, and regional lines.
Marc Becker is author of Pachakutik: Indigenous Movements and Electoral Politics in
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.