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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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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