Ecuador 107
ByEl Salvador
Pages 12

February 1997: An estimated 2m. demonstrators marched through the streets of Quito demanding President Bucaram’s resignation. The President responded by declaring a national holiday and a one-week closure of schools across the country, and stated his support for the strike. Troops were deployed throughout the capital as violent clashes erupted between protesters and security personnel. President Bucaram was barricaded inside the presidential palace. 6 February 1997: At an emergency session, Congress voted to dismiss the President on the grounds of mental incapacity and a state of emergency was declared. Fabián Alarcón Rivera, who had been appointed acting President, urged demonstrators to storm the presidential palace-despite this, Bucaram refused to leave office. Rosalía Arteaga, the Vice-President, claimed to be the legitimate constitutional successor to Bucaram, leading to fears of military intervention to resolve the situation. 9 February 1997: Bucaram fled from the presidential palace to Panama, where he successfully obtained political asylum. 10 February 1997: Arteaga was declared President after narrowly winning a congressional vote. 11 February 1997: Arteaga resigned and Alarcón was reinstated as President. He announced a reorganization of cabinet portfolios (in which no members of the two largest parties in Congress, the PSC and the PRE, were included) and the creation of a commission to investigate allegations of corruption against Bucaram and his administration. March 1997: The Government requested Bucaram’s extradition from Panama on charges of misappropriating some US $90m of government funds. Ecuador produced an official complaint against the Peruvian army’s use of landmines along the border. April 1997: The President of the Supreme Court declared that Bucaram’s extradition would only be possible once a prison sentence had been issued. May 1997: Bucaram announced his intention to seek election to the presidency. Congress imposed an indefinite ban on Bucaram’s candidacy in any future presidential election. 25 May 1997: A national referendum on electoral reform, the modernization of the judiciary and the authenticity of Alarcón’s position was held. The vote revealed support for both Bucaram’s removal from office and Alarcón’s presidency. June 1997: Support for Alarcón was jeopardized by the launch of an official inquiry into allegations that leading drugs-traffickers in the country had contributed to political party funds, and particularly to Alarcón’s Frente Radical Alfarista. July 1997: In response to the recent referendum’s approval of the depoliticization of the judiciary, Congress dismissed all 31 judges of the Supreme Court. The President of the Supreme Court condemned the action as unconstitutional. August 1997: The announcement that a National Assembly to review the Constitution would not be convened until August 1998 resulted in a two-day strike, which was supported mostly by the indigenous population. A former FRA colleague filed charges of embezzlement against President Alarcón in the Supreme Court. September 1997: The Government announced that elections for the 70 representatives to

January 1998: The Supreme Court issued a prison sentence against Bucaram, after he was convicted in absentia of slandering two political rivals. January 1998: Congress approved a law aiming to preserve the Galápagos Islands’ unique environment. A section of the law, which provided for an extension of the marine reserve around the island from 15 to 40 nautical miles, attracted criticism from powerful fishing interests in the country and was consequently vetoed by President Alarcón. He was subsequently criticized for having placed commercial pressures at a higher priority than the regional environment. February 1998: The National Constituent Assembly announced a series of institutional reforms: Congress was to be enlarged from 82 to 121 seats and the presidential term extended from four years to four years, five months and five days. Mid-term elections were abolished and it was established that the Vice-President would complete a presidential term in the case of the indefinite absence of the President. 31 May 1998: In the first round of voting in presidential elections, Jamil Mahuad Witt, the DP candidate and Mayor of Quito, emerged as the strongest contestant. Alvaro Novoa Pontón of the PRE came second, followed by ex-President Borja and Freddy Ehlers. In concurrent elections to the enlarged Congress, the DP won 32 seats, the PSC 27 seats, the PRE 24 and the ID 18. 12 July 1998: A second round of voting took place; Mahuad narrowly defeated Novoa, winning 51.2% of the votes cast. 10 August 1998: Mahuad took office; his new Government contained mainly independent members. Upon his inauguration, the new Constitution came into force. September 1998: Significant increases in the cost of domestic gas and electricity, publictransport fares and fuel prices, occurred. October 1998: A general strike was organized by FUT and CONAIE to protest against the price increases. Violent confrontations resulted in the deaths of four people. 26 October 1998: Ecuador and Peru signed an accord, which confirmed Peru’s claim regarding the delineation of the border. Ecuador was accorded navigation and trading rights on the Amazon and the opportunity to establish two trading centres in Peru. Moreover, Ecuador was granted 1 sq km of territory, as private property, at Tiwintza in Peru, where many Ecuadorian soldiers killed during the conflict of 1995 were buried. February 1999: The Minister of Finance, Fidel Jaramillo Buendia, resigned over disagreement concerning economic policy. Fuel shortages prompted the resignation of the Minister of Energy and Mines, Patricio Rivadeneira García. The leader of the leftwing Movimiento Popular Democrático and member of Congress, Jaime Hurtado González, was assassinated in Quito; the killing was linked to a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group. In the same month, the former Interim President, Alarcón, was arrested on charges of illegally hiring personnel during his term in office as Speaker of Congress. March 1999: Ecuador’s military presence was strengthened at its border with Colombia after reports of Colombian paramilitary troops in the country. A substantial decrease in the value of the sucre led President Mahuad to declare a week’s national holiday to

Progreso. April 1999: An emergency plan entitled ‘Ecuador 2000’, which included a number of measures required to gain the support of the IMF, was revealed by the Government. late April 1999: Ecuador, four other Latin American countries and the USA submitted a complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the European Union (EU) unfairly favoured Caribbean banana producers (chiefly in the former European colonies there). The WTO upheld the complaint and the USA imposed trade sanctions against certain EU goods. May 1999: Tiwintza was officially transferred from Peru to Ecuador. June 1999: Four new members of the board of the central bank were appointed in a plan approved by the IMF. The Government hoped that the IMF would provide an estimated US $400m. in initial funding. 5 July 1999: Public-transport workers began a strike in protest at increases in fuel prices and the new economic plan proposed by the IMF. Other trade-unions and indigenous groups joined the strike. The Government declared a state of emergency. An armed confrontation between protestors and soldiers in the central Andes occurred when an estimated 2000 indigenous-rights demonstrators took possession of the communications antennae in Ambato. 14 July 1999: Congress repealed the state of emergency. President Mahuad deemed that the country was not sufficiently stable to warrant such action, however, and reimposed it a few hours later. 16 July 1999: Prresident Mahuad agreed to abandon any further increase in fuel prizes and to allow co-operatives and transport companies to access ‘frozen’ bank accounts. The state of emergency was lifted. August 1999: The country experienced further financial instability. Unable to meet its foreign-debt repayments, the Government cancelled its payments for a period of 30 days, in an attempt to gain an agreement on restructuring (Ecuador’s external debt totalled more than US $ 13,000m). September 1999: The Minister of Finance, Alicia Lucia Armijos, resigned. September 1999: Colombian guerrillas were suspected of abducting 12 foreign nationals, several of whom were employees of a petroleum company. November 1999: EU restrictions on Latin American banana exporters were eased. January 2000: A state of emergency was declared as a result of increasing unrest amid indications that the economic situation was deteriorating. 9 January 2000: Despite previous objections, President Mahuad announced a decision to adopt the US dollar as the currency of Ecuador. The President of the Central bank resigned, claiming that the proposed conversion rate of the sucre was unfeasible. 21 January 2000: Mahuad was forced to flee from the presidential palace, following large-scale protests by indigenous-rights demonstrators in Quito, supported by sections of the armed forces; some of the protesters occupied Congress. Antonio Vargas, the President of CONAIE, Gen. Carlos Mendoza, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and Carlos Solorzano, the former President of the Supreme Court, established a new

dismissal of the triumvirate. 27 January 2000: President Noboa appointed Pedro Pinto Rubianes as the new VicePresident. February 2000: Noboa formed a Cabinet, comprising members of the DP, the PRE and the PSC. Heinz Moeller Freile became Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Francisco Huerta Montalvo became the new Minister of the Interior. The Ley de Transformación Económica, which included ‘dollarization’, fiscal reform and an expanded policy of privatization, was approved by Congress. CONAIE organised demonstrations against the adoption of the dollar and called for a referendum to dissolve Congress and the Supreme Court. It also demanded amnesty for troops involved in the coup d’état of January. April 2000: The IMF confirmed a one-year stand-by agreement, conditionally approving US $2,000m in multilateral aid over the next two years. The Government formally began the process of replacing the sucre with the dollar. Dollarization resulted in a stabilization of the exchange rate and a restoration of popular confidence in the economy. Concessions to opposition groups successfully diminished popular discontent, although CONAIE continued to call for mass action against privatizations and dollarization. May 2000: The entire military high command was replaced and an amnesty was declared for those arrested in connection with the coup d’état which deposed Mahuad. The Government’s announcement of an IMF-approved economic adjustment package was opposed by trade unions and indigenous groups and resulted in the resignation of the Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Jorge Guzmán Ortega. Both the DP and PSC performed well in the municipal and provincial elections, suggesting significant popular acceptance of structural reforms. August 2000: Relations between PD and PSC came under increasing strain when the independent Susana González was controversially elected legislative President for the remainder of the session. The Government offered to resign in support of the President after the governing coalition lost its majority in Congress. September 2000: CONAIE renewed negotiations with the Government. September 2000: Ecuador began to receive Colombian refugees as violence escalated in that country. December 2000: Two attacks on the trans-Ecuadorian petroleum pipeline resulted in at least 16 fatalities and 41 injuries. December 2000: The Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Luis Yturralde, who was opposed to the economic measures favoured by the IMF, resigned. January 2001: Increases in fuel prices and transport costs were met with popular resentment. Indigenous-rights protesters occupied Quito and roadblocks were erected across the Andean highlands and the Amazon lowlands. late January 2001: It was feared that an environmental catastrophe had occurred after a petroleum tanker ran aground less than one kilometre from the Galapagos Islands. Some 190,000 gallons of petroleum leaked into the sea, although it was thought that favourable weather conditions had alleviated the environmental damage. February 2001: Following the intensification of protests, the Government imposed a r

Ecuador and Colombia. April 2001: Continued congressional opposition to certain of the conditions imposed by the IMF for the release of its credits, most notably the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT). 4 May 2001: Congress approved an increase in VAT; the IMF subsequently agreed to release funds.