World » Americas

Ecuador President faces impeachment

Country's left and rightist forces joined in the Congress to oust Lucio Gutierrez, a leader who had promised broad social reforms, but has deepened pro-market policies increasing poverty and inequality in the oil-rich South American nation.

Conservative and leftist political parties joined in the Ecuadorian Congress to launch a bid aimed to impeach President Lucio Gutierrez for alleged misappropriation of funds. According to these forces, Gutierrez, who was elected in November 2002, used state funds to finance the political campaign of his Patriotic Society party, which catastrophically lost recent mid-term elections.

The impeachment trial request came from the conservative Social Christian, the social-democratic Democratic Left, the indigenous Pachakutik, the leftist Democratic Popular Movement and the Socialist parties, as well as some independents.

In the South American nation's one-chamber legislature, 67 of 100 votes would be needed to impeach Gutierrez. The petition, signed by 51 opposition lawmakers, will create a committee to investigate charges that Mr Gutierrez misused public funds.

Gutierrez says there's a plot behind Congress' bid led by former president Leon Febres Cordero who wants revenge because the government is seeking money due from his family. Gutierrez said Thursday that the Febres Cordero family owed 110 million dollars to the state; a debt the president says has not been serviced for more than five years.

However, the current situation Gutierrez is facing now has deeper roots. Gutierrez, a former army colonel elected thanks to a leftist program that never put in force, abruptly lost his popularity in less than one year as insisted in the same pro-market reforms that had led this South American oil-rich nation into its worst-ever social crisis.

He went to the elections with a leftist coalition that included the powerful Indigenous party, which largely backed Gutierrez's election in 2002 but broke with him after accusing the president of dropping his leftist platform in favor of pro-market reforms.

In fact, Gutierrez, despite his populist rhetoric did not change a single line of the austerity programs agreed with the IMF to make Ecuador keep on paying its debt at the cost of a unemployment and poverty rates that reached 70% last year.

Also part of his plan was the fight against corruption. Now, if Gutierrez did not fulfil his promises of social reforms, why Ecuadorians should trust in his honesty?