Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Importance of Being Ecuador, 6

1. Politics

When Clausewitz asserted that war is the continuation of politics by other means, he left something out. War is the continuation of political economy by the meanest of means. War is the compressed expropriation and destruction of labor so essential to political economy. And the officer corps of the military is the condensed expression of the weakness, the brutal incompetence of the bourgeois class by just those same meanest means.

In 1926, the junta of the League of Young Officers ruling Ecuador appointed Isidro Ayora to the presidency. Possessed of great wealth by marriage, and a social conscience by temperament, Ayora imagined himself establishing a dictatorship of reform bourgeoisie. But once and forever incapable of establishing a independent class program, the bourgeoisie could not create their own reforms. Instead, Ayora imported a reform commission from Princeton University of New Jersey.

The Princeton commission created the Banco Central, expropriating and transferring to the government the private banks' currency issuing power. The commission also transferred the customs and revenue collection functions from la argolla of Guayanquil to the government in Quito.

The golden era that followed this redirection of revenues was short-lived and quickly dead, strangled in its crib by the great capitalist depression of the 1930s. Export revenues declined by two-thirds in the period 1928-1931. Ayora was overthrown by the military in 1932, and near civil war erupted when the candidate of the populist, nationalist Compactation Obrera Nacional (Consolidation of National Workers) Neptali Bonifaz Ascazubi was elected to the presidency. The Liberal paramilitary forces defeated the CON in the streets as the military, giving full expression to the ferocious paralysis of capital, the furious inability of the bourgeoisie to actually govern, stayed in their barracks.

But the Liberal president, Juan de Dios Martinez lasted only 2 years in office. The Chamber of Deputies encouraged the CON to return to the streets to protest, and in 1934, the then president of the chamber, the man who would appear and reappear, or not so much reappear as recur, like a delusion or an infection, throughout the next four decades of Ecuadorean politics, Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra, won the presidency by a huge margin.

But not for long. "Not for long" were the words inscribed on the presidential seal of Ecuador. Not for long Ayora. Not at all Bonifaz. Not for long Dios. Not for long, this time, Velasco.

Velasco was overthrown by the military in 1935 after he had dissolved the Congress. Federico Paez was awarded the presidency. But not for long. In 1937, Paez was overthrown by the minister of national defense, General Alberto Enriquez Gallo. But not for long. In his brief tenure, Enriquez appears as the pre-Peron Peron of Ecuador, instituting and enforcing the Labor Code of 1938 giving legal status to labor protections. Enriquez also confronted the United States over the US owned mining corporation, the South American Development Company. The company, backed by the US government, refused to raise wage rates for Ecuadorean workers, and increase the portion of profits retained in Ecuador.

Enriquez died in 1939 and was followed in office by another representative of the Guayaquil liberals and friend of the US, Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Rio. As WW 2 approached, the US rethought its position on mining profits, ending its support for the South American Development Country, in exchange for agreement allowing the US to build a naval base and an air base in Ecuador.

In 1941, Peru invaded and occupied portions of Ecuador's eastern and southern provinces. The war ended with the Rio Protocol. Arroyo del Rio ceded 200,00 square kilometers of territory to Peru. In 1944, supporters of Velasco, civilian and military, attacked Arroyo's police. Arroyo resigned, and Velasco returned from exile in, where else?, Colombia naturally, to take the presidency one more time. But not for long.

s.artesian March 5, 2006

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