US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ecuador on October 19 to declare US support for the country’s besieged President Guillermo Lasso a day after imposing a state of emergency (estado de excepción), suspending constitutional rights and deploying heavily armed troops in the streets. .
Appearing to the media alongside Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo, Blinken said: “In extraordinary times, democracies require exceptional measures.
Referring directly to the imposition of dictatorial measures by Lasso, Blinken continued: “As I have discussed with President Lasso, we understand this, support this, but also know that these measures, of course, must be taken in accordance. to the constitution. “
Lasso announced a state of emergency on October 18, using as a pretext an incident in the coastal city of Guayaquil in which a 13-year-old boy was killed in an exchange of fire between police and gunmen.
While the Ecuadorian president has said his state of siege measures are aimed at cracking down on crime and drug traffickers, his ordinance authorizes the suspension of basic democratic rights, including freedom of movement, assembly and association.
They were imposed under conditions in which his presidency was plunged into a deep political crisis.
Lasso, a right-wing multimillionaire ex-executive and Coca Cola banker, was elected president last April in what was seen as a shaken victory in the second round of the election. His path to power has been paved by the failure of the so-called “pink tide” government of Rafael Correa, whose limited reforms have been eroded by falling oil prices. Correa’s hand-picked successor Lenin Moreno has started a sharp turn to the right, prompting his administration to embrace US imperialism by expelling WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, on handing over to the British government to face extradition to the United States for espionage charges.
Lasso’s party, however, holds only 12 of the 137 seats in the National Assembly and, even with the support of other right-wing parties, it has not been able to enforce its free market agenda.
He sought to impose an IMF-dictated structural adjustment program that includes drastic cuts in social spending, “labor reform” that would deprive workers of job protection, tax cuts for investors. capitalists and the lifting of restrictions on mining, oil drilling and foreigners. control over key sectors of the Ecuadorian economy.
Lasso has seen his approval ratings drop by more than 20% since the publication of the so-called Pandora Papers, which exposed his investments in at least 10 offshore shell companies located in Panama, South Dakota and Delaware.
Like other heads of state and senior officials exposed by the Pandora Papers, Lasso insisted that his offshore holdings were all perfectly legal. The National Assembly, however, opened an investigation, declaring that the right-wing president “may have broken” a law which “prohibits candidates and public officials from having their resources or their assets in tax havens”. Lasso boycotted the investigation, claiming to be the victim of a foreign plot.
While Lasso was elected on the promise that his policies would create jobs and raise living standards, some 6 million Ecuadorians – more than a third of the population – live below a miserably low poverty line, with just two and a half million survivors in conditions of extreme poverty. According to the government’s own figures, only three in ten Ecuadorians have formal employment, the rest being either unemployed, underemployed or earning a living in the so-called informal sector.
His administration was also rocked by violent prison revolts which resulted in the deaths of around 230 inmates.
With growing popular opposition, the declaration of a state of emergency, imposed in the name of combating serious “internal unrest”, is a warning that Lasso intends to rely on naked force to stay in the field. power and impose its right-wing program.
Lasso addressed a rally on Wednesday outside the presidential palace in Carondelet, made up of public employees, right-wing supporters and protesters paid by business interests. He denounced the unions and indigenous organizations calling for a strike on October 26 against his government’s policies as “conspirators” and supporters of the “coup”, vowing that he would defend Quito against them.
“With the support of the glorious armed forces and the national police, we will protect the entire territory of Ecuador and the entire Ecuadorian family,” said Lasso.
Previously, he announced that his government was forming a legal defense body to defend any police or soldier charged under the state of emergency. “The law should intimidate the criminal, but not the police,” he said. He promised to pardon any member of the repressive forces accused of a crime, effectively granting them absolute impunity to carry out acts of violent and murderous repression against the population.
It is under these conditions that Secretary of State Blinken went to Quito to congratulate Lasso for “the strong pro-democracy voice that you have shared with the Ecuadorian people, but also with the people of our hemisphere”.
These statements, made during Secretary of State in the Biden administration’s first trip to Latin America, could be called the “Blinken doctrine”. Washington will support police state measures and dictatorship wherever they are needed in the hemisphere to protect capitalist interests, sanctifying them as a defense of “democracy.”
The second stop of his Latin American tour of Blinken took him to Colombia, where he urged far-right President Iván Duque to “prevent rights violations” after his security forces shot dead dozens of protesters at nationwide protests triggered by the government’s regressive fiscal policies. He proclaimed Duque “a much appreciated friend of the United States”.
In Bogota, Blinken met with foreign ministers from Chile, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador, among others, to secure collaboration in eliminating migration to the United States.
A central goal of the US Secretary of State’s first Latin American tour was also to build support for right-wing regimes in the region against the growing economic clout of China, which displaced the United States as its first partner. trade in the region, if Mexico is excluded from the equation.