Today a group of police instigated an uprising against the democratically elected government of President Rafael Correa in Ecuador. They physically attacked Correa and kidnapped him to a police hospital in Quito. Police continue to viciously attack unarmed and unprotected supporters of the constitutional order with tear gas and rubber bullets. One protestor is confirmed dead, and the coup attempt has spread to Guayaquil and Cuenca. The police are also attacking the press.
Men and women attempting to reach the president in the heavily guarded hospital are advancing in the streets with their hands in the air, as a sign of non-violence.
What began ostensibly as a labor protest by a small group of police officers has clearly become an attack on Ecuadorean democracy. In a special session of the Organization of American States, members issued a unanimous resolution supporting Correa and UNASUR has stated its unqualified support for the president.
President Correa confirmed that he is being held captive and stated unequivocally that his government will not engage in dialogue with the police as long as he is held hostage and the population is being savagely repressed.
This is no time for ambivalence.
Peoples throughout the world, but especially in the United States, must call on their governments to not only condemn, but vigorously oppose through diplomatic means and legal channels, any effort to undermine democracy in Ecuador and to restore President Correa in office, providing absolute guarantees for his physical safety and respect for his mandate.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying, “The United States deplores violence and lawlessness and we express our full support for President Rafael Correa, and the institutions of democratic government in that country.”
Words are not enough. The Honduran coup d’état, in which the international community failed to restore the elected president Manuel Zelaya to office in large part due to backroom maneuvers by the U.S. government, provides important lessons. This case must never be repeated. Many warned that the success of the Honduran coup set a dangerous precedent and could lead to more anti-democratic acts of force in the region.
This is the time to act. All people and governments of the world must stand up for democracy. President Obama has expressed his commitment to constitutional order. His administration must take firm steps to support this commitment in Ecuador’s critical situation.
Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program.