The State of Democracy a Year after Ecuador's Coup

Article excerpt

Ecuador is still debating whether an attempted coup occurred on Sept. 30 last year, but the revolt has nonetheless had profound changes on three institutions in the Andean nation.

A year ago today, on September 30, 2010, Ecuador made international headlines when a police revolt over bonuses turned into what the government maintains was an attempted coup.

Early that morning, President Rafael Correa rushed to the main police barracks of Ecuador's capital Quito to address rebel officers. After being booed, President Correa defied them to kill him: "If you want to kill the president, here he is. Kill him, if you want to. Kill him, if you are brave enough."

Police tear-gassed and pushed the president, who was then ushered to a nearby hospital. He was trapped inside for almost 12 hours by policemen who surrounded the building. Soldiers eventually rescued Correa after a shoot-out with the police. Five people died that day.

For the government and its supporters, September 30 was a failed coup, aimed at presidential assassination. For critics, the day was a labor dispute, albeit a violent one, that the government used for political gain.

Today divisions remain. The government will be marking the one- year anniversary with photo exhibitions, film screenings, and conferences to celebrate what they call "the day democracy triumphed."

But for family members of the day's victims, as well as for many critics, there is little to be celebrating. "What has the country gained? When entire families have been destroyed, a country cannot gain anything," says Sandra Jimenez, sister of Froilan Jimenez, a policeman who died in the shoot-out outside the hospital.

Amid polarization, the day has also had profound changes on three institutions in the Andean nation, and to critics none of it bodes well for democracy.


Today the military is in Ecuador's streets carrying out policing operations. Although Ecuador's constitution, approved under Correa in 2008, puts the police in charge of internal security, the revolt created mistrust in the institution among the government and large sectors of the population. …


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