First Honduras, now Ecuador?

Update 2010-10-01: The president was brought out from the Police Hospital by the military last night, after a firefight with the police that we could see on live TV here in Miami. There was never a declaration of a coup, and the whole things seems to have been nothing but a protest that went out of hand when someone fired a tear gas grenade in the face of the president. In that respect this event was of a completely different nature than last year’s events in Honduras.

In Honduras, the protests started with peaceful mass demonstrations, in which unarmed civilians dressed in white demanded that the president respect the constitution and the rule of law. At the same time, a judicial process was being carried out against the president in the courts. The first loss of life was many days after the president had been deposed, and then as a result of a deliberate stratagem to create a martyr, staged by the deposed president and his supporters.

In Ecuador the kettle immediately boiled over as a result of seemingly spontaneous protests by the police, and, weapons being fired, it caused the loss of lives on both sides the first day. Yet the situation is similar in many respects in the two countries. Both were members of ALBA, and both presidents were taking bribes from a foreign country, Venezuela (the so-called ALBA “loans”), thus potentially committing treason but at the very least a severe case of corruption.

Another similarity is that both presidents were pursuing policies that threatened the very existence of the popularly elected Congress, the ultimate voice of the people between elections: Zelaya by holding a referendum that would have opened the door for him to abolish the constitution, and Correa by threatening to abolish the Congress and rule by dictates. Anybody concerned with the rule of law and democratic institutions thus had reason to distrust the president in both countries.

Honduras painstakingly pursued a legal process to stop their president, peaceful protests coupled with a judicial process. It is the civilized way to do things.

Coup d’etats can never be justified, and that goes for autogolpes, too. If Correa insists in his plans he will be guilty of an autogolpe, but that in and of itself does not justify the police starting to riot in the streets. The deposing of a self-coupster has to be initiated in the proper democratic institutions, as was the case in Honduras. The rule of law cannot be defended by violating the rule of law.

Original text 2010-09-30: Yesterday I blogged about how Honduras could have started a new centrist trend in Latin America when the democratic institutions, led by the popularly elected Congress – got rid of an increasingly despotic president.

Today the fury of the masses was directed at Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa, who also is showing increasingly despotic traits. The president was taken to a hospital, allegedly injured by tear gas as police was protesting.

The word is that there is a strong sentiment among ordinary people that he has to go, but as I write this nobody has declared that he has been replaced. Perhaps it will, this time, stay at a strong warning sign for Correa, and not develop into a coup. Or maybe not.

At any rate, here is a reminder to him that no president is above the law:

Ceremonial Pajamas of the Republic of Honduras
The Ceremonial Pajamas of the Republic of Honduras is offered as a loan to Ecuador (or Nicaragua, or even Cuba), but they need to return it promptly after use in case it is needed again, I am told.

A friend was flying out today but the flight was cancelled when it was about to take off, as the military blocked the runway. Stay tuned.

Swedish Media: DN.