On April 14, the Dialogue hosted a discussion with Valeria Merino, executive director of the Latin American Center for Development, on the political and institutional challenges in Ecuador.Merino
acknowledged that the current crisis in Ecuador cannot be blamed entirely on President Gutierrez or his
government, but is due to a progressive weakening of Ecuador's democratic system over the past several years.The reaction of Ecuadorean civil society to recent developments, however, has been encouraging.Since Gutierrez's decision to replace 27 Supreme Court justices in December 2004, civil society has protested strongly, declaring the act unconstitutional and demanding that the decision be reversed. Merino
believes two matters need to be addressed in order to resolve the crisis.First, Gutierrez needs to recognize his
move to replace justices as unconstitutional and send the de facto court home.Second, civil society protests have been met with violence by the police, which can no longer be tolerated by the government.Merino
said that Ecuador can solve the crisis internally and strengthen the country's democratic credentials.She
is relieved that the United States has not tried to get involved, and suggested that the limited U.S. response is related to Ecuador's role in Plan Colombia and a U.S. military installation in Manta, Ecuador.If the problem cannot be solved internally, Merino
said, the international community may carry some influence.
, the most troubling aspect of the crisis is that things went wrong so quickly in a democratic country.Perhaps, she
suggests, this is an opportunity for democratic consolidation in Ecuador.However, the situation is now at a deadlock, as Gutierrez has not responded to the opposition's petitions and has made no move to negotiate or even acknowledge the problem.Merino
remains optimistic, but admitted that there is no easy solution.