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Homepage > Publication Type > Media Releases > Ecuador: Overcoming Instability?

Ecuador: Overcoming Instability?

Bogota/Brussels  |   7 Aug 2007

Ecuador is poised for another round of instability unless the new president pays more attention to upholding the rule of law and building a consensus for fundamental reforms.

Ecuador: Overcoming Instability? ,* the latest background report from the International Crisis Group, examines the roots of volatility in Latin America’s most unstable democracy. It looks at the new government of President Rafael Correa and his first steps to bring about political and socio-economic change, primarily through a Constituent Assembly (CA) to prepare a new constitution.

However, history shows the country’s problems cannot be solved solely by constitutional engineering and that elites and traditional parties will do everything in their power to protect their privileges. To truly bury the ills of the old system and restore stability, Correa will need to ensure a level playing field for the CA, concentrate on the rule of law and develop wide-spread consent for his reforms.

“Correa and his left-wing administration portray themselves as catalysts for change to end the vicious cycle of chronic instability and provide a more just future for citizens”, says Mark Schneider, Crisis Group’s Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America. “But past presidents have made similar claims, only to fall quickly into the same corrupt habits”.

Since 1996, Ecuador has had eight presidents, three of whom have been ousted by Congress and street protest. The rule of law has been progressively weakened and despite reform efforts, the political system has become largely dysfunctional. The country has also endured one of the continent’s worst economic crises.

Correa’s “shock therapy” during his first six months in office has resulted in government domination of Congress, the Electoral Court, parts of the judiciary and other state institutions and the banking sector. He has also denounced critical media and engaged in reckless social spending.

Real change is only possible if Correa acts more decisively against corruption and reinforces the rule of law as part of an effort to generate investment and guard against a major drop in oil prices that could further destabilise the country. He must democratise and institutionalise his Alianza País movement, and ensure a transparent and fair CA process by seeking consensus on key constitutional points and elaborating an economically sustainable development plan with broad citizen participation.

Correa enjoys a record-high approval rating, but the 30 September election to the Constituent Assembly may prove difficult, as the political opposition has regrouped.

“Correa has shown his talent for communicating with the poor and working class, but Ecuador will quickly return to instability if he fails to take the rest of the country with him on the path to democratic change”, says Markus Schultze-Kraft, Director of Crisis Group’s Latin America Program.

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