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WikiLeaks: LASSOing the U.S. in Ecuador

As the unlikely Julian Assange affair continues to play out in London, the imbroglio stands to have unforeseen political ripple effects in countries near and far. In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa is hoping that the WikiLeaks saga will unfold to his advantage in advance of the country's February, 2013 election. By granting political asylum to Assange, Correa calculates that he may appeal to Ecuadoran nationalism and a wounded sense of pride. Though certainly risky in certain respects, Correa's high stakes gamble could pay off as many Ecuadoran poor rally to his banner. Indeed, it's possible that Correa's foes will veer off the Assange issue and conclude that this wild card is best left untouched.

 

The subject is particularly touchy for Guillermo Lasso, a veteran politician with perhaps the greatest chance of dislodging Correa from power. Though the President is looking rather solid in the polls, Lasso has been steadily gaining in popularity. A powerful political and economic insider who has served in two separate administrations, Lasso is former head of the Guayaquil Central Bank and briefly served as Governor of the coastal state of Guayas.

 

Despite this long track record, Lasso carries some unflattering baggage which could taint his future political prospects. According to secret diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks, Lasso was determined to unseat Correa and appealed directly to the U.S. Embassy in Quito. In light of the embarrassing revelations, it's doubtful whether Lasso has a lot of sympathy for Assange and his plight.

 

Lasso's animosity toward the Quito government was put on display early on in the first Correa administration. Writing to her superiors in Washington, U.S. Ambassor to Ecuador Linda Jewell remarked that the "usually fractious" Ecuadoran private sector had gotten its act together and was beginning to develop "what could become a cohesive response to what it perceives as threats from the Correa administration."

 

Such efforts were being led by paranoid rightist forces from the commercially important city of Guayaquil, which feared creeping political encroachment by Correa, a politician linked to Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Scared for the future, business figures urged the U.S. "to do their heavy lifting" and organize against the central government.

 

LASSOing the U.S. against Correa

 

Key in such efforts was none other than Guayaquil banker Lasso, who brazenly spoke to the Americans about his desire to rid the country of Correa. According to Jewell, Lasso had organized a "systematic effort" to coordinate the Correa opposition through a group called "Ecuador Libre" or "Ecuador Free" [according to Lasso's own web site, Ecuador Libre is a think tank pledged to coming up with public policy solutions based on the ideas of "liberty and social solidarity"].

 

Lasso reported that the business community had launched its own public relations effort and produced a breathless radio spot "which featured a Venezuelan voice discussing the situation in Venezuela and an Ecuadorian voice responding that she would not want the same situation to develop in Ecuador."

 

Determined to halt state control over the economy, Lasso had spoken to other prominent Correa opponents such as former president Lucio Gutiérrez and Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot. During his conversation with the U.S. Embassy, Lasso refrained from requesting "extensive support" though the Guayaquil man did ask the Americans to "echo the private sector's appeal for individual freedoms should the private sector come under fire from the government."

 

Jewell, however, seemed a bit skeptical of getting too "lassoed" into action. The Ambassador noted that there were "real limits to working with these political leaders." Gutiérrez was willing to work with the business community, "but only on his terms," while Nebot had "chosen to frame his role as defending local Guayaquil interests (e.g., the status of the Guayaquil port), rather than seeking the mantle of leader of the national opposition to the Correa agenda."

 

By simply participating in the discussion, Jewell was certainly complicit in opposition scheming against Correa. Nevertheless, the diplomat was still wary and remarked to her superiors that "we have emphasized the importance of domestic sectors working toward consensus and offering responsible alternatives as a necessary pre-condition before any international engagement can be truly effective."

 

Business Friendly Governor

 

If anything, WikiLeaks cables merely underscore what many Ecuadorans have long suspected about Lasso: namely, that the banker is a consummate political and economic insider who favors the interests of Washington and large financial institutions. Lasso's rise on the national stage can be traced back to the year 1999, when impoverished Ecuador faced crushing and spiraling debt. Hoping to avert a catastrophe, President Jamil Mahuad accepted a loan from the International Monetary Fund (or IMF) which obliged Ecuador to reach a balanced budget for the following year.

 

At the time, Lasso was serving as Governor of Guayas state, having been previously appointed to the position by Mahuad himself. Lasso was also busily at work on radical renovation plans for the city of Guayaquil, the capital city of Guayas. As Director of the Malecón 2000 Foundation, the banker was associated with the previously mentioned Nebot, a politician who was pushing hard for boardwalk renovations.

 

In a zealous drive to emulate tough guy Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Nebot contracted former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton to help shape the city's urban regeneration strategy. The newly constructed boardwalk was praised by many local residents as being "just like Miami." However, indigenous street vendors were removed from cleaned up urban spaces. Indeed within the new Guayaquil, urban "undesirables" found working in gentrified areas faced tough penalties and beggars and itinerant vendors could be imprisoned for up to seven days.

Tour Guide at Bush White House

 

Back in Quito meanwhile, Mahuad was facing economic troubles and so the President tapped Lasso as Ecuador's new Secretary of the Economy. Leaving aside his local political work, Lasso took up his new responsibilities with gusto. However, when Mahuad announced that Ecuador might default on its bonds, the powerful banker abruptly resigned in protest.

 

Ecuador continued its downward spiral into economic turbulence and political instability in the next couple of years until, finally, Lasso staged a comeback. In late 2002, the newly elected government of Lucio Gutiérrez included the banker on its transition team, a move which went down very well within financial circles. Though Gutiérrez had formerly been a left-leaning army officer and actually helped to depose the Mahuad government amidst a popular insurrection in 2000, the new president quickly made a political U-turn by courting the IMF and appointing Lasso as Ecuador's Ambassador-at-Large to the U.S. In Washington, D.C. Lasso conducted important liaisons with the IMF and Inter-American Development Bank.

 

In Febuary, 2003 Gutiérrez's betrayal of the Ecuadoran left went into high gear. Flying to Washington, the new Ecuadoran President met with George W. Bush at the White House. Lasso meticulously conducted every detail of Gutiérrez's tour, and the banker "moved like a fish out of water" in his new home. Reportedly, however, Lasso's presence proved disconcerting to Ecuador's career diplomats, who resented the banker's outsized influence.

Hoping to make a good impression on the Bush team, Lasso steered Gutiérrez in his meeting with the U.S. Republican President. Emerging later from the Oval Office, the new Ecuadoran leader announced that he wanted his country to "become the best ally of the U.S." in the fight against terror and drug smuggling. As Gutiérrez veered to the right, Lasso's profile continued to soar, and the banker was put in charge of free trade negotiations with the U.S.

 

Lasso's Paranoia

 

Yet again, however, Lasso was foiled in his effort to ram through his business-friendly agenda. Though progressive social forces originally supported Gutiérrez, they turned against the President once it became clear that he was more interested in pursuing Lasso's corporate-style politics. In 2005, protests forced the President from power and a new caretaker government under Alfredo Palacio took over.

 

Hoping to appease the left, Palacio appointed the aspiring and ambitious Rafael Correa as Economy Minister. Palacio was critical of many of his predecessors' policies, but the caretaker president was no radical. Indeed, according to WikiLeaks cables, Palacio requested U.S. assistance with international financial institutions and declared that he could be an effective "counterweight" to Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Perversely, he even asked Washington and the World Bank to provide security on Amazonian oil fields.

 

Despite these conservative leanings, Lasso was still dissatisfied. According to one WikiLeaks cable, the Guayaquil businessman approached the Americans and griped about Palacio. According to Lasso, Palacio "had lifted his political philosophy from his communist father. Lasso did not think Palacio had drifted far from his father's views."

 

Candidate's Far Right Connections

 

Given that even the Palacio regime was far too leftist for Lasso, it is understandable that the Guayaquil banker will now stop at nothing in his effort to unseat the more nationalist/populist Correa, who first came to power in 2006. On the campaign trail, Lasso likes to strike a moderate tone, remarking that he would do a better and more efficient job at social investment than Ecuador's current President. In an effort to counteract Correa's populism, Lasso has even inveighed against his own country's political class and business leaders, who he claims are out of touch with the day-to-day life of most working people.

 

Lasso's personal connections, however, seem to belie any such democratic talk. The Guayaquil businessman is a great admirer of former Spanish President José María Aznar, a conservative politician whose government was allegedly involved in an attempted coup d'etat against Hugo Chávez. What is more, Lasso is a member of Opus Dei, a Catholic organization which reportedly enjoyed significant influence under the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship in Chile. In addition, Lasso is a member of Georgetown University's Latin America Board, an entity which "seeks to promote leaders who will make a disproportionate difference in the world." The Board is linked to the school's Walsh School of Foreign Service and Security Studies Program, which is a haven for spooks and intelligence folk.

 

The 2013 Election

 

As history has shown time and again, Ecuadoran social movements have little patience with the pro-U.S. and pro-corporate agenda, and all leaders from Mahuad to Gutiérrez to Palacio to even Correa have been acutely aware of this fact. Lasso, a more recent candidate espousing rightist views, must tread carefully lest he incur the wrath of Ecuador's poor majority.

Yet, according to the Guardian, the Guayaquil man is now polling at 17% of the vote and "election observers, including the Correa campaign, view Guillermo Lasso as the candidate most capable of forcing a runoff and, indeed, possibly winning the election." Meanwhile, though the candidate is somewhat unknown to most voters, the campaign has "launched aggressive efforts to promote him in television and print media."

 

Though Correa is still favored to win the election, Assange now represents a wild card in the political mix. The Guardian comments that "essentially [by providing diplomatic asylum to Assange], Correa has wrapped himself in the flag – in such a way that his conservative opponents are not able to criticize him effectively, lest they seem unpatriotic." Indeed, though Lasso must dislike Assange for disclosing sensitive diplomatic U.S. cables which cast him in an unfavorable light, the Guayaquil banker has been tight lipped about the whole affair now unfolding at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. That is not too surprising, given that the issue seems to be playing to Correa's advantage and indigenous peoples have voiced their support for Assange.

 

According to the Guardian, political speech in the media and campaign advertising in Ecuador is severely restricted in the 90 days leading up to Election Day. That means that the next few months are going to be critical, with Lasso having only until November to make a dent in Correa's armor. "The longer and more dramatic the Assange case is," notes the Guardian, "and the longer Ecuador's diplomatic dispute with the UK and Sweden continues, the more the Ecuadorian election campaign will dwell on international affairs – a sphere the incumbent Correa dominates in relation to his opponents. With far fewer risks than the major electoral benefits it delivers, the diplomatic spat is clearly in Correa's political favor."

 

Assange, then, is now an unknown variable in larger geopolitical chess and even domestic politics within Ecuador. For better or worse, Correa has thrown in his lot with Assange, though to be sure the outcome of this imbroglio is hardly predictable at this point. Assange meanwhile undoubtedly hopes that Correa wins the election, lest his asylum bid be placed in jeopardy by a hostile Lasso administration smarting from earlier WikiLeaks revelations. Stay tuned for more ironic twists and turns.

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From a Texan-Venezuelan to an Ecuadoran Giuliani: Meet South America’s New Secessionists

Having failed to halt the tide of South America's Pink Tide, Washington is seeking to cultivate relationships with secessionist leaders in order to facilitate the breakup of countries which share left leaning governments.  In Bolivia, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has explicitly supported demands of the political opposition for greater regional autonomy in the eastern section of the country and has funneled millions of dollars to the right.

 

It's an inflammatory move which has incited a diplomatic firestorm throughout the region.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, an important ally of the Morales government in La Paz, has said that his country will not stand for secession in Bolivia's eastern lowland states.  The stage now seems set for confrontation, as Bolivia's largest and richest state overwhelmingly backed a referendum calling for greater autonomy earlier this month. 

 

Chávez declared that his government has not meddled in the domestic affairs of other Latin American nations, but would do so if Bolivian states now seeking greater autonomy from Bolivia's central government push for total independence.  On his weekend radio and television program, the Venezuelan leader blamed "oligarchs" and "fascists" in Bolivia for the
unrest.

 

"The CIA and its lackeys" aimed at seizing control of regional governments through illegal referendums, Chávez said, "but we will defeat that plan through integration, political union and ideological strength." 

 

News of the secession movement in Bolivia has alarmed the Venezuelan authorities.  It's not difficult to see why: in western Venezuela, the right wing opposition is pushing for greater autonomy from the central government.  In response to the political crisis in Bolivia, Chávez
likened opposition efforts to win control of states near Venezuela's border with Colombia to "separatist" moves in the impoverished Andean nation to the south.  With secession rapidly turning into a worrisome political dilemma for regional governments, right wing opposition

figures are now coming to the fore.  Who are these secession leaders who wish to derail South America's Pink Tide?

 

A Texan Venezuelan

 

With the largest inland lake in Latin America, the most fertile land and 40 percent of Venezuela's oil production, the western state of Zulia and its capital Maracaibo may rightly claim to be the country's productive backbone.  Zulia has always thought of itself as the Texas of Venezuela-- a land dominated by oil, cattle and predominantly conservative politicians.  It is the country's most affluent and populous state.

 

Local residents have long taken pride in zulianidad - a state identity based loosely on Caribbean food and hospitality, a local musical genre known as gaita, and the syncretic Christian practices that dominate local religious life, chief among them worship of the "Black Christ" housed in Maracaibo's cathedral. 

 

In the twentieth century some "Zulianos" sought greater autonomy from the central government.  Historical documents in the Public Records Office of Kew Gardens in London suggest that U.S. oil companies have been embroiled in secession plots.

 

Currently, the most high profile politician pushing for greater Zulia autonomy is Manuel Rosales.  Born in 1952, Rosales began his political career in the 1970s as a local member of the city council in the town of Santa Barbara del Zulia.  A teacher, Rosales rose through the ranks of Acción Democrática, one of the two corrupt parties that dominated Venezuelan political life in the twentieth century. 

 

Rosales went on to be elected mayor of Maracaibo and formed his own party, A New Time.  An implacable foe of Hugo Chávez, Rosales went on to be elected Zulia governor in 2000.  Even as Chávez and his followers racked up one electoral victory after the next, Rosales defied
conventional political wisdom by winning reelection in 2004. 

 

"I Made a Mistake in Good Faith"

 

A politician who defines himself as a believer in freedom and social justice, Rosales nevertheless supported the U.S.-supported 2002 coup against Chávez.  Rosales was a signatory to the infamous "Carmona Decree" dissolving Venezuela's democratic institutions.  He later claimed, unconvincingly, that he had made a mistake "in good faith." 


At the time he signed the decree, Rosales argued, it appeared as if Chávez had voluntarily resigned from the presidency amidst urban confusion and gun battles erupting in the streets of Caracas.

 

In December, 2006 Rosales ran against Chávez in the presidential election.  Though he received support from the middle class opposition he went down to bitter defeat, losing by some 25 percentage points.  The campaign unfolded amidst a climate of intrigue, as Chávez accused Rosales and the U.S. of promoting Zulia's political independence and having ties with Rumbo Propio (or "Own Way"), a group which supported Zulia separatism.  Néstor Suárez, an anti-Chávez figure who opposed the government's social programs in favor of "liberal economics," led the right wing organization.

 

Though Chávez has failed to prove that Rosales had any link to secessionist plots launched by the likes of the U.S. or Rumbo Propio, the Zulia governor has cultivated close ties to the U.S. since his electoral defeat in 2006.  Last year, prior to Venezuela's vote on a constitutional referendum, Rosales went to Washington to meet with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon.  Rosales urged the U.S. to press Chávez to slow his constitutional overhaul plan which would have accelerated the government's progressive social agenda and abolished presidential term limits.

 

Ratcheting up the pressure yet further on Chávez, Rosales now says that he favors some degree of regional autonomy for Zulia.  The Zulia governor has said that he favors greater independence from Caracas on the groundsthat the government intends to take power away from states and municipalities, and "centralize everything." 

 

Rosales's statements come in the wake of a renewed autonomy push by New Time state legislators.  In early May, they proposed a feasibility study for potential autonomy from the federal government which they compared to the autonomy efforts in Bolivia's wealthy province of Santa Cruz. 

 

In response to the inflammatory moves by Rosales' party, Chávez supporters have lashed back.  "We legislators categorically reject this separatist, secessionist proposal of the state because it goes against our values and the integral development of the country," said José Luis Acosta, a pro-Chávez state legislator from Zulia.  Acosta added that "We, with the law, with the People in the street, and with the armed forces, will put up a fight."

 

Guayaquil Secessionst Sentiment

 

Venezuela is not the only country facing an internal secessionist movement. In Ecuador, the right opposition to President Rafael Correa is coalescing around Jaime Nebot, the mayor of the coastal city of Guayaquil.  Affiliated to the country's Social Christian Party, Nebot ran twice for the Presidency, in 1992 and 1996.  During his second presidential bid, Nebot ran on a pro-business platform stressing privatization of public services. 

 

Born into a prominent Guayaquil family, Nebot entered politics in 1984 when President Leon Febres-Cordero appointed the ambitious young man Governor of Guayas province, the district encompassing Guayaquil.   Nebot's association with Febres-Cordero, a key ally of Ronald Reagan at the time, is not flattering.  As I explain in my new book, torture and killing by the military as well as disappearances and arbitrary arrests multiplied in Ecuador during this unfortunate period of the country's political history.

 

Later, Nebot rose to national prominence when he won a seat in Congress on the Social Christian Party slate.  While serving in Congress, Nebot became known for his colorful and tasteless outbursts.  In August, 1990 Nebot, visibly agitated, began yelling hysterically at a fellow congressman, Víctor Granda of the Socialist Party. "Come here so I can urinate on you," Nebot shouted memorably at Granda. "I can't just hit you. I have to urinate on you."  Police had to physically intervene to stop Nebot from physically assaulting his adversary.  The incident was caught on Ecuadoran national TV and has been preserved for posterity on YouTube. 

 

Ecuador's Giuliani

 

In 2000 Nebot was elected Mayor of Guayaquil where he pursued a conservative, pro-business agenda emphasizing gentrification and crime busting (he was reelected in 2004 to another four year term).  In his zealous drive to emulate tough guy Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Nebot contracted former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton to help shape the city's urban regeneration strategy in 2002.  Nebot flew Bratton in from the United States, paying him an enormous sum of money for just three days of work.  Bratton proposed an overhaul of Guayaquil's anti-crime structure which later became known as "Plan Bratton."

 

The New York cop's anti-crime structure has formed part and parcel of the city's regeneration plan, which has turned Guayaquil into a kind of dystopian urban nightmare.  In the new Guayaquil, urban "undesirables" found working in gentrified areas face tough penalties: beggars and itinerant vendors may be imprisoned for up to seven days and fines can
reach as high as $500.

 

"Just Like Miami"

 

A newly constructed boardwalk called the Malecón 2000 is praised by many local residents as being "just like Miami."  However, indigenous street vendors do not fit into this ideal and

there have been ongoing efforts to remove them from cleaned up urban spaces.  In an excellent and thorough recent scholarly article, University of Glasgow geographer Kate Swanson described the contours of Nebot's social policy. 

 

The boulevard, she writes, "is monitored by heavily armed police who individually assess who can enter the gated grounds and who cannot.  Within the regenerated area, there are now at least 52 police-operated video cameras running 24 hours a day. This municipal gaze is not only concerned with crime control; rather, a key function of the cameras is to monitor the regenerated areas for the occupation of public space—particularly by informal workers."

 

The Malecón, which lies adjacent to the Guayas River, is totally manicured and sanitized.  Pedestrians may lounge in cafes and gardens, sit on benches or even eat in a local McDonald's.  "Yet," notes Swanson, "this too is guarded and monitored by heavily armed police during all opening hours.  The gates close at midnight to prevent undesirables from sneaking in and spending the night. This boardwalk was designed with tourists and Guayaquil's upper-middle classes in mind."

 

According to Swanson, there's been much criticism of the social impacts of Nebot's revitalization projects.  In fact, she notes, newspaper articles have been replete with complaints by informal workers denouncing police harassment.  In 2003 alone, the media

reported 10 cases of excessive police force in Guayaquil, many of which were captured on film.  At night, informal workers are not allowed to pass into revitalized areas of the city, and the streets are patrolled by truckloads of young, heavily armed police officers.

 

Nebot to Correa: "We Refuse to Be Guinea Pigs"

 

Having failed in his presidential ambitions, Nebot is now seeking to capitalize on secessionist sentiment in Guayas, the nation's most affluent province.  The populous, agricultural region contributes a huge share of money to the central government and is rich in natural resources.  Banana, cocoa, rice, sugar cane, cotton, tropical flowers and fruits are grown there, both for domestic consumption and export.  There is a fishing industry, focused mainly on tuna and on shrimp farming, and food, cement, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries.  What's more, Guayaquil is the nation's largest port. 

 

If Guayas were to ever secede from Ecuador, such a move would prove economically devastating for the country.  Nebot however is determined to turn up the pressure on Correa, saying that the government needs to stop its "socialist project" before the country cracks up.  Nebot and his followers argue that Correa's desire to reform the country's constitution is aimed at making the President a "Chávez-style" dictator.  

 

In January, 2008 Nebot led a march of tens of thousands through Guayaquil's streets in the name of defending the city's autonomy from Correa's plans for further centralization.  Supporters waved the city's blue and white flag and chanted "Long live Guayaquil, dammit," and "Down with Correa." 

 

"As long as you are alive and I am alive, he will never push us around," Nebot shouted to the crowd. "We will not be guinea pigs of a failed experiment."  An estimated 150,000-200,000 people attended the protest, around double the number who joined a government-sponsored march in Guayaquil a week earlier to mark the Correa government's first anniversary in power.

 

Meet Rubén Costas: Bolivia's Secessionist

 

Fair skinned and European looking, Rubén Costas hardly resembles Bolivia's indigenous president Evo Morales.  Elected Prefect of the western department of Santa Cruz in 2005, Costas has become a key advocate for greater regional autonomy and a thorn in the side of the government in La Paz. 

 

Following Costas' election, the right opposition escalated its pressure on the Morales government, organizing protests in the city of Sucre against the President's proposed Constitution which would have given the country's indigenous majority a greater say in political decision making.  When clashes erupted which resulted in the deaths of three
demonstrators and a policeman, Costas pounced by calling for a 24-hour business strike. 

 

An advocate for powerful business interests, Costas was also one of the right wing politicians who called for a referendum on Santa Cruz autonomy earlier this month.  Prior to the referendum, Costas remarked hopefully that the departments of Tarija, Pando and Benin

would join Santa Cruz in its drive for autonomy and "a second Bolivia will be created."

 

On the eve of the referendum vote, Costas assured Bolivians that there would be no violence.  At a rally, he announced "We don't want dynamite, nor clubs, nor rancor. The democratic vote is our only weapon."  Predictably however, Election Day was marked by violent clashes between government supporters opposed to the autonomy statute -- mainly indigenous migrants from Bolivia's impoverished western highlands provinces -- and members of the rightwing Santa Cruz Youth Union.  

 

As a result of the May referendum, the stage is now set for irrevocable future conflict: 85% of the residents of Santa Cruz voted for autonomy.  As part of the referendum Costas himself will take over as Governor of the department, though Morales has called the vote illegal
and nonbinding.  Making further mischief, Santa Cruz leaders have pledged to withhold levies paid by energy companies operating in the area.

 

Santa Cruz, Guayas, and Zulia: What Do They Have in Common?

 

Like Guayas and Zulia, affluent provinces in Ecuador and Venezuela respectively, Santa Cruz is the richest department in Bolivia.  Bolivia's eastern departments account for most of the country's natural gas production, industry and gross domestic product.  Like Chávez, who
is worried that Zulia secession would lead to a cutoff of oil revenue, Morales can ill afford secession in the east: Bolivia is South America's poorest country and desperately needs proceeds from the gas industry. 

 

There's a racial and political dimension to these conflicts too.  In Ecuador, it is Nebot and the predominantly white and mestizo coastal elite which seek to secede from the Indian highlands.  In the small Andean nation, it's the Indians who are pushing radical social change, whereas whites and mestizos on the coast fear the rise of socialism. 

 

In Bolivia, there's a similar dynamic at work: Morales's indigenous supporters in the highlands constitute the radical political vanguard which are increasingly at odds with whites and mestizos in the lowlands.  In Santa Cruz, the elite fears Morales' plans to promote land reform and to capture greater energy revenue for the central state.

 

The similarities between these secessionist movements are not lost on the region's leaders.  Javier Zárata, the Bolivian Ambassador to Ecuador, recently remarked that"what is occurring in Bolivia is not an isolated action." "I know there have been coordination meetings last year and the year before among representatives from Santa Cruz and representatives of Guayaquil, and other states of other countries," the diplomat added.

 

Speaking on his weekly radio show, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said that "oligarchical and separatist" Bolivians were trying to destabilize the Morales government.  Correa remarked that regional governments would not stand for secessionist movements in Santa Cruz, Zulia and Guayas.  Elites in all three countries, Correa declared, sought to roll back progressive social change "so as to continue with imperialistic and neo-liberal policies."

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