Ecuadorians oust President Gutiérrez (Rebellion of the Forajidos), 2005

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Timing
Time Period:  
13 April
2005
to
20 April
2005
Location and Goals
Country: 
Ecuador
Location City/State/Province: 
Quito, Pichincha
Location Description: 
Parks, streets, the presidential palace, and the airport in Quito
Goals: 
To remove Lucio Gutiérrez from the presidency
 

Retired Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez won the 2002 presidential elections in Ecuador after emerging as a popular ally of the poor during the years following a 2000 coup d’etat. A series of decisions followed his becoming president that increased the country’s International Monetary Fund debt and approved exploitation of oil on indigenous land.

In December 2004, President Gutiérrez dissolved the Supreme Court and appointed justices who supported him. On 26 January and then again on 16 February 2005, thousands of Ecuadorians demonstrated in Quito and Guayaquil in protest of the December manipulation of the court.

In March 2005, the court canceled charges against exiled former President Abdalá Bucaram, allowing him to return to the country after eight years in Panama. When Bucaram returned, on 5 April 5,000 people protested outside the National Congress. Police used violence and tear gas to quickly disperse the demonstrators.

Quito Mayor Paco Moncayo and authorities from six provinces set up the Quito Citizens’ Assembly and then called for a strike, demanding that a new court be set up. On 13 April thousands of residents in Quito participated in the strike, closing down public transportation, education and local government buildings.

While Mayor Moncayo and others gathered in the plaza to read the constitution out loud, 400 indigenous people spoke out against the government in a park, and university students gathered in the Cultural Center. No one was able unite the diverse demonstrations.

Gutiérrez believed that the strike failed and even commended Quiteños for choosing work over protest that evening. Paco Velasco, director of Radio La Luna opened the microphones to the public. A woman called the radio station at 7pm in response to Gutiérrez’s statement, exclaiming, “I went to work, but not to support the regime.” She suggested a protest that night at 9:00 pm.

People responded and 10,000 gathered, mostly women with children and elderly people, until 1:00 am at La avenida de los shyris and marched to the Supreme Court building. Many banged pots and pans, waved Ecuadorian flags and called for the removal of Gutiérrez. They shouted, “Lucio out!” and, "The people united will never be defeated!”

Early the next morning, 14 April, protestors visited Gutiérrez’s personal home. The president came out on the balcony to send away the demonstrators, referring to them as forajidos or outlaws. The campaign to remove Gutiérrez from the presidency then became known as the Rebellion of the Forajidos. Thousands of people declared, “I am a forajido too!” on their t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters, and graffiti.

On Friday, 15 April, 15,000 people gathered in demonstration and banged kitchenware. Gutiérrez responded by going on television, calling for a state of emergency and dissolving the Supreme Court. Demonstrators believed this to be just another oppressive action and ignored the state of emergency, remaining strong and singing the national anthem while waving their country’s flag.

General Luis Aguas, commander of the Army, opposed the state of emergency. The president lifted it the following day.

Radio La Luna, which had assumed an organizational and communications role for the campaign, called people to protest with rolls of toilet paper. People did so, spreading the message that they were cleaning up the president’s corruption. Paco Velasco, moderator of this radio forum, received hundreds of calls from journalists updating him on the various actions in the city. He then announced these to listeners, directing them to a total of about 200 protests throughout the week.

Velasco emerged as a leader of the campaign as he called for peaceful action, organized smaller actions into more united marches, and continually praised the people for nonviolence. The nature of the forum allowed for creativity in the campaign as citizens helped to mobilize people; for example, one citizens called for all vehicles to stop at noon one day and honk their horns for five minutes.

As demonstrations continued through Saturday and Sunday, police used tear gas, high pressure hoses, and rubber bullets to repress the protestors. On Monday, La Luna called for Ecuadorians to come together and march to the Presidential Palace. On Tuesday, 19 April, over 100,000 people marched to the Palace.

Gutiérrez ordered the police to use repressive means, including more tear gas. A Chilean photographer died in the repression. Protestors returned to their homes early in the morning.

On Wednesday morning La Luna received reports that Gutiérrez had promised people from the coast and Amazon flour, oatmeal, and tuna to come to Quito to counter-protest. People living close to edges of the city set up blockades with their vehicles and Mayor Moncayo ordered the major tollway to close and had trucks and city buses set up blockades.

In late morning on the same day, the chief of police Gen. Jorge Poveda, resigned saying that he regretted what had happened and could no longer use violence to confront Ecuadorians.

Schools, buses and other parts of the city shut down as people marched to the Presidential Palace. The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Victor Hugo Rosero, who had remained loyal to the president, announced that the military was withdrawing its support from the president in order to protect the public and restore peace. Military squads withdrew at 12:50 p.m. Wednesday, leaving the police to handle the protestors.

Sixty out of sixty-two present members of Congress then voted to remove the president on grounds that he failed to fulfill his constitutional duties. They swore in Vice-president Alfredo Palacio.

At 2:00 pm Gutiérrez attempted to flee but found his escape to be difficult as protestors organized to occupy the Mariscal Sucre International Airport to prevent his departure. La Luna continued to announce his whereabouts so that organizers could quickly intercept him. He managed to board a helicopter and find political asylum at the Brazilian embassy.

Newly appointed President Palacio made efforts to bring peace back to the country and many demonstrators celebrated their victory, though some hoped to push for greater reform and more lasting change.

Palacio, in his short time as president, increased social spending, distanced himself from the United States and appointed Rafael Correa as economy minister. Correa was very popular and won the presidential elections in 2006. Through a 2007 constituent assembly, Correa facilitated the formation of a new constitution which stated many rights for diverse groups of people, including indigenous nations, GLBTI citizens, women, and rights for the natural world.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Aguinaga, Margarita and Hugo González. “The Fall of Lucio Gutiérrez.” International Viewpoints, IV.236. 23 May 2005. <http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article788>

Leiter, Benjamin. “The Rebellion of the Forajidos: The Movement to Overthrow President Lucio Gutiérrez.” Nonviolent Social Change: the Bulletin of the Manchester College Peace Studies Institute <http://www.manchester.edu/academics/departments/peace_studies/bulletin/2007/documents/The%20Forajido%20Revolution.pdf>

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nick Palazzolo, 17/02/2013