Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Ecuador's elite creates 'smokescreen' for FTAA entry

In the last couple of weeks, Ecuador's fragile democracy has threatened once again to come apart at the seams. On October 20, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) ruled that President Alfredo Palacio's call to hold a referendum in December to elect a constituent assembly to amend the country's constitution was illegal.

However, responding to massive public opposition to the ruling, Palacio has insisted on going ahead with both the referendum and constituent assembly, sparking calls from the hostile legislature for his resignation.

According to Prensa Latina news agency, on October 22 Palacio refused to back down, telling a meeting with representatives of popular organisations that the "proposed assembly is irreversible, inevitable, necessary and perfectible".

The convening of a constituent assembly was one of the demands that Palacio, a retired cardiologist and former vice-president, promised to carry out in the wake of the mass protests that led the Congress in April to remove from office President Lucio Gutierrez and replace him with then vice-president Palacio.