Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Importance of Being Ecuador, 7

1. Love and Chocolate

Divided by their particular attachments to specific forms of private property, the ruling classes of Ecuador were, and remain, united in, by, and around private property itself. Church, state, faux aristocrats, haciendistas, all swoon, indulge, and shared with the liberal planters, manufacturers, exporters of Guayaquil in the richness brought by the cacao trade. And where chocolate leads, love is sure to follow. And follow it did.

The commercial and industrial bourgeoisie of the costa intermingled and interbred with the latifundistas of the Quito region.

Money can't always buy love, but it can always buy land. The purchase of land by the traders and manufacturers of Guayaquil was an essential step in attaching status to the accumulation of capital. The newly enriched bought land and stature, turning economic success into position by marrying into the older, and debt-strapped, established families. Kinship and marriage made the bourgeoisie again what they always had been, servants and financiers of backwardness. The pre-nuptial agreement, and the marriage bed, were the consummation of illegitimacy-- the marriage of the bastard offspring from the conquistadors' original destruction of the indigenous communities.

2. What a Difference a Year Or Two Make

In May 1944 Jose Maria Velasco assumed the presidency for a second time. He promised a government of "national resurrection," saving the "national honor." Conservative opponents of Velasco's Democratic Alliance were jailed, silenced, or otherwise removed from government. A constituent assembly, dominated by left-wing elements, was convened.

One year later, Velasco dismissed the assembly and called for new elections. These elections produced a right-wing constituent assembly, reflecting the rightward movement of the Democratic Alliance. And the constitution produced by this assembly was far more palatable to Velasco and the elites of Quito and Guayaquil.

For the next two years this poor imitation of that apotheosis of poor imitations, Louis Bonaparte, ruled by the bayonet and the concrete pour. Military parade and public works, the imitations of wealth and empire, were the closest capital could come to "national resurrection." Salvation was found, but only in the bank accounts of the elites. By 1947, the national treasury had been emptied of the revenues brought by the increased demand and higher prices paid for commodities during WW2 and Velasco was on his way out.

Overthrown by his own minister of defense in 1947, Velasco resumed the presidency for a third time in 1952.

He, Velasco, proclaimed himself "the national personification." And in his inabilities, Velasco personified the congenital incapability of capital, of the Ecuadorean bourgeoisie to resolve the conflicts between city and countryside; landed property and free, detached, labor; private property and social need.

Some things had changed in the Ecuadorean economy. Bananas had replaced cacao as the country's primary export. As diseases ravaged the banana plantations of Central America, Ecuador's banana exports to the US accelerated. Whatever the source of revenues, the contradictions remained.

Again, export earnings supported government financed infrastructure construction and military armaments.

Again Velasco moved against his own left-wing, mobilizing conservatives, social Christians, and the thugs of the nationalist, anti-communist ARNE (Accion Revolucionaria Nacionalista Ecuatoriana) against students and workers.

Again, Velasco left office, suceeded by a conservative ally and cabinet member, Camilo Ponce Enriquez, and again Velasco reappeared as the "national personification" of opposition to his follower.

Again export earnings fell, and the end of the banana boom created enough social conflict to restore Velasco's national personification. In 1960, Velasco was elected yet again to the presidency.

Again Velasco lurched left, abrogating the hated 1942 Rio protocol under which Ecuador had been compelled to cede 200,000 square kilometers to Peru. And again, the social forces behind Velasco's "national personification" split left and right, and a military junta took power.

History is not supposed to be simply a repetition compulsion, but capital in its very origin the product of the unresolved conflicts, the legacy of the conquest, rather than the resolution of those conflicts, the overthrow of that conquest, acts as an historical neurosis. Velasco's periodic overthrows and restorations become a social tic, a clock resetting itself backwards...

S. Artesian
April 09, 2006

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