Ecuadorians March for Participatory Democracy

Thousands of Ecuadorians marched in Quito on Tuesday, some storming Congress, to demand that the widely unpopular legislative body vote to hold a referendum for a constitutional assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.

The situation turned violent when police fired tear gas at the protestors making their way into the Congressional session.

Press reports have tried to manipulate the nature of the protests by suggesting that it was being orchestrated only by "supporters" and "backers" of the country’s newly elected leftist president Rafael Correa without qualifying that Correa’s "supporters" and "backers" consists of a majority of Ecuadorians. Correa was elected into office with close to 60 percent of the vote and a recent poll by Cedatos/Gallup shows that he enjoys the support of 73 percent of Ecuadorians.

Although the referendum seems to have a majority of support in Congress, which according to the same poll enjoys only 13 percent approval, Correa had to cut a deal with disgraced former president Lucio Gutiérrez (who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2005) and his Patriotic Society Party (PSP). One of the stipulations is to lift a ban on political activity for Gutiérrez, thus allowing him to run for the constituent assembly.

But if for some reason the process gets stalled in Congress social movements are ready to act.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) stated that Congress could expect country-wide mobilizations if steps to hold the referendum are not taken immediately.

The president of the Confederation of Kichwa Peoples of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI), a powerful CONAIE member organization, told Inter Press Service that an "indigenous uprising" could be organized.

"The constituent assembly cannot be blocked by a few legislators. It is a demand by the people, and will become reality. If they try to stop it and an indigenous uprising is required (to make it happen), then that’s what we’ll do," said ECUARUNARI president Humberto Cholango.