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Ecuador: More evidence of a coup

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Who is this Gustavo Lemos Larrea? And what does he have to do with the "police uprising" that wasn't? Let Jean-Guy Allard tell you...

Gustavo Lemos, the Ecuadorian who burst into the consulate of Ecuador in Miami during the coup events of September 30, along with a handful of partisans of putschist Lucio Gutiérrez and Cuban-American extremists, has been denounced in his country as a torturer and suspected of having covered up the murders of two teenagers.

Lemos is known in Quito as the chief of the torturers during the reign of Social Christian president León Febres Cordero (1984-1988).

Now based in Miami, with the complicity of the State Department, Lemos was found to be participating, a week before the coup, on September 23, in conspiratory activities co-ordinated by Carlos Alberto Montaner in Miami. Montaner is a CIA agent and fugitive from Cuban justice.

Among the "stars" of that "forum", there was the former colonel, Lucio Gutiérrez, ex-president of Ecuador, deposed by the people. With his habitual cynicism, Gutiérrez disparaged his homeland, saying "all is totalitarianism and total corruption."

Gutérrez announced from Miami the end of the political model pursued by President Rafael Correa. Later, from Brasilia, he called for an assassination.

An immigrant with "cover" in Washington and Langley, Lemos frequently gave interviews to Radio Mambí, the mafia station in Miami, to defame President Correa. He presented himself as a spokesman for small opposition groups such as the "Francisco Morazán" Honduran Association and the Ecuadorian Society of the Exterior, both associated with fascists of the Cuban community in Miami who are known for their use of terrorism.

Lemos is also known for his ties to the ex-chief of military intelligence, Mario Pazmiño, who was expelled from the army due to his CIA ties.

In recent months, Lemos has been denounced publicly in Ecuador by the Commission for Truth, in conjunction with several cases of torture, illegal arrest, assassination or disappearances which occurred during the reign of León Febres Cordero.

The commission pressed for a court case against Gustavo Lemos Larrea, along with the government minister Luis Robles Plaza (now deceased), based on evidence that they used torture as a police investigation method.

One of the most repugnant instances of repression in which Lemos is involved is, without doubt, the case of the brothers Restrepo.

On January 8, 1988, the police illegally detained Carlos Santiago and Pedro Andrés Restrepo Arismendy, two brothers aged 17 and 14 years, respectively.

According to a key witness, ex-agent Hugo España, the boys were taken to the Criminal Investigations Service of Pichincha, and tortured for several days by investigators of the National Police. One of them died during a torture session. On January 11, the interrogators killed the second brother, a decision made by Lemos in the office of the minister, Robles Plaza, according to the father of the victims, Pedro Restrepo.

The bodies of the two young brothers were dismembered and thrown in Lake Yambo, in the province of Tunguragua.

Lemos is an ardent partisan of colonel Lucio Gutiérrez, the most visible head of the conspiracy and assassination attempt of September 30.

According the the TC Televisión (of Quito) program, In Search of the Truth, close collaborators and partners of the ousted president, Gutiérrez, and of Carlos Vera, ex-TV host and opposition activist, are involved as protagonists of the "police uprising" of September 30.

Among other key players in the failed coup attempt is acting colonel (in passive service) Galo Monteverde, who led the demonstrations called by Vera. Monteverde participated along with Gutiérrez in the coup d'état against then-president Jamil Mahuad, in January 2000.

Fidel Araujo, militant of the Patriotic Society (SP); Pablo Guerrero, ex-attorney for Lucio Gutiérrez; and Max Marin, of the SP, met in the police station. Meanwhile, the brother of the putschist colonel supported the operation in the Parliament, giving instructions to the Legislative Guard, with the complicity of politicians such as Lourdes Tibán, assembly member of the Pachakutik party; Luis Villacís, of the Popular Democratic Movement, and fascists of the movement "Madera de Guerrero".

Translation mine.

I've already blogged about Pachakutik and its allies in the indigenous group CONAIE, and their strange denial of what was quite obviously a coup. By now, it's also obvious that Sucio Lucio Gutiérrez is a key villain, and probably in control of CONAIE and Pachakutik both. Get a load of what else I found while looking for photos (which I have yet to find) of the shadowy Gustavo Lemos...

An old State Dept. report on Ecuador, in which CONAIE figures prominently among putschists trying to install Sucio as president in the wake of a coup against Jamil Mahuad:

On January 19, approximately 6,000 persons including members of the Confederation of Ecuador's Indian Nationalities (CONAIE), students, and leftwing political protesters marched in Quito. On January 21, thousands of protesters, including members of CONAIE, students, teachers, and union members, occupied and took control of the congressional building in Quito. The police and military guarding the building did not oppose the occupation with force, and over 100 soldiers joined the protesters. CONAIE leader Antonio Vargas announced on television from the floor of Congress that he would head the People's Parliament. He also said that retired army Colonel Lucio Gutierrez would join him in a new "ruling junta" as the executive, and that former Supreme Court President Carlos Solorzano would take over the role of Supreme Court President. The protesters called for President Mahuad to resign. (There also were protests in Guayaquil, where a group of students, unionists, and neighborhood associations seized the provincial government building.)

President of Congress Juan Jose Pons described the small military group that joined the protests as "seditious" and called for support for the democratically elected Government. Mahuad then spoke on television and refused to resign. On the afternoon of January 21, the armed forces service chiefs and joint staff chief General Carlos Mendoza called for the President to resign. Mahuad resisted the call to resign but later fled the palace. The junta (also called the "triumvirate") originally was composed of Vargas, Solorzano, and Colonel Gutierrez. Later during the night of January 21, at the palace, General Mendoza briefly joined the junta, replacing Colonel Gutierrez. On January 22, President Mahuad appeared again on television and accepted Vice President Gustavo Noboa as president; on the same day, Congress ruled that Mahuad had deserted his post. With Noboa's assumption of office, order was restored.

And what a coinkydink! CONAIE were front and centre in trying to deny the putschist coup--again, spearheaded by Sucio--this time against a much more popular president, namely Rafael Correa. Whose popularity has only increased since then.

Meanwhile, it looks like Gustavo Lemos is in legal trouble. According to the EFE news agency, Lemos is under investigation, by Correa's government, for those very crimes he committed during the 1980s, including the murders of the two brothers mentioned by Allard in the piece I translated. Looks like this one will be one to watch in the future, kiddies.

Comments

Bina, please do more research about CONAIE before posting on the subject.

It is well known that Gutierrez and CONAIE have a long relationship, dating to the time when he was a junior officer and supported (briefly) a large social movement toppling of Mahuad following the announcement of his dollarization plans. This was seen as a popular attempt to prevent further neo-liberal reforms to the country. The military however backed out, itself participating with populist interests in the overthrow, a few days later when the US government made it clear that there would be no aid money for the military if the junta government stayed.

Pachakutik later participated in Gutierrez's election in 2002, Luis Macas well-known intellectual and leader within the indigenous movement and other pachakutik members getting positions in the cabinet of the government. Their relationship was short-lived and in 2004 Pachakutik broke with Gutierrez's government, with a large number of indigenous leaders joining the opposition. CONAIE later participated in the protests that took Gutierrez out of power.

Further, CONAIE's current position needs to be understood in relation to several issues the indigenous movement has with Correa, who has not followed on many of his promises and does follow a very egoistic caudillo governing style. Their position is significantly more nuanced and needs to be contextual to indigenous struggles against mining contracts and changes to the water law, as well as the insults Correa has levelled against the indigenous movement (calling them terrorists) long before.

I would suggest reading Marc Becker's Indians and Leftists for a history of the indigenous movement and left politics in Ecuador. Also following commentarists who have a relationship with civil society movements in Ecuador and do not take pot-shots from a distance is important. As Ben Dangl's new book discusses, there are important differences between social movements and political parties in the 'left' of Latin America - whether or not these fights are 'good' or not is for Latin Americans to figure out, but their disagreements should not be subjected to misrepresentations from afar.

I make these comments because I generally enjoy your blog.

Amigo, the problem with CONAIE et al is simply this: They denied that there was a coup even when all the evidence pointed in that direction. Plus, USAID has been financing them for years. That spells corruption. It's little wonder that Correa didn't go along with their demands. He's not stupid.

There is no evidence that USAID has financed CONAIE. There is evidence of money going to community level organizations, relatively small amounts spread out of two decades, and those who claim this is money going into CONAIE have little understanding of the organizational structure of the indigenous movement in Ecuador. Of course there is an insulting neo-colonialist understanding of the indigenous movement in Ecuador: that they cannot think for themselves and strike-out their own political project. Its absolutely absurd, insulting and dangerous to think that the indigenous movement, which risked their lives many times over the past decade fighting dollarization, foreign influence, and the FTA with the US is somehow an 'agent' of the US government; it just is stupid. Allard and Golinger, the main 'sources' of the anit-CONAIE writing, are reporting from a distance, writing to their own interested narrative, and it is a dangerous path to walk down.

Considering that Correa's government has called for police action that killed 2 indigenous protesters, called them terrorists and savages; you cite Gutierrez, but Correa seems to be following a similar path of manipulating political discourse on indigenous issues for his own political interests. He is using colonialist rhetoric and colonialist tactics of insulting indigenous leaders, using police to repress protests, and using state money to divide indigenous communities. I witnessed this on the ground in Ecuador and many people who work with the indigenous movement have noted this over the past two years.

The narrative you are participating in constructing is one which does not benefit a struggle for '21st century socialism'. Social movements that oppose Correa are not 'right wing'. The indigenous movement has been "left" for longer than you or I and has fought longer and harder than Correa for many of the principles of 21st century socialism. The extreme divisions, however, being created by political manipulation and narratives such as those promoted by Golinger and Allard are part of a growing distrust that Correa is another white-mestizo caudillio leader; the history of Ecuador is full of paternalist governors of indigenous people who claim to speak for their betterment. That is fundamentally the reason why CONAIE has not followed the coup-line, and it has nothing to do with foreign coup-plotting.

Funny, but the "interested narrative" of Golinger/Allard actually consists of USAID documents found to contradict what you're saying. Don't take my word for it, see for yourself. This is a good place to start:

http://www.chavezcode.com/2010/10/evidence-of-ned-fundingaid-to-groups-in.html

The comments section is very revealing.

Golinger links to a set of declassified USAID documents she was able to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act. The NDI, an arm of the NED (the other is the IRI, representing the Republican party; NDI represents, shamefully, the Democrats) has issued the following (dated early 2007):

http://centrodealerta.org/documentos_desclasificados/usaidned_funding_political_.pdf

See page 3 in particular. Pachakutik, affiliated with CONAIE, has long been financed by USAID:

"The master trainers have provided training for political parties in the following countries: Ecuador -Pachakutik,E thical [sic] and Democratic Network (Red Etica y Democracia-RED), Christian Democrat Union (Union Democrata Cristiana-UDC)..."

Ecuador is mentioned several times throughout.

They also mention, BTW, key opposition parties in Venezuela, the same that have backed numerous attempted coups against Chávez. Parties which, I should add, have little support and even less credibility, in spite of all the money and years of effort the NDI have lavished on "leadership training" for them. (Or rather, because of it!)

(The section starting on page 20 is also revealing--and unintentionally amusing, going on as it does about "populist" leaders and the decay of the traditional parties. No mention, of course, that the reason the traditional parties declined is because of corruption originating in Washington and the US corporate sector! Also no mention that the latter two "populists", Gutiérrez and Fujimori, were themselves corrupted in due course. Page 22 is laugh-out-loud funny with its special emphasis on "transparency", considering how far from transparent this whole convoluted venture has panned out to be!)

And if USAID financing for small community groups--in "leadership training", no less!--isn't insulting and neocolonial, I don't know what is. Being financed by Washington in any way, direct or indirect, is not going to help them advance their own political projects, but will subvert and ultimately hinder them by tilting them the way Washington wants them to go. That would undermine them in the long run with the ordinary voters, who, as you correctly pointed out, are not stupid. It is not only possible, but highly likely, that USAID went this indirect route so the whole thing would have the appropriate "community-based", "democratic" gloss. Wouldn't be the first time it happened in Ecuador. Philip Agee was quite open about that in his book, and yes, he was there when the CIA staged not one but two coups. (Which makes all the declassified document's talk about "crises of confidence" even more galling, since those crises were actively fomented from abroad.)

The USAID/NED/NDI/IRI/etc. cover was adopted later, during Reagan's time so as better to disguise the CIA's thumbprints on LatAm coups; layers of indirection made the money trail harder to follow. But the MO is still the same: give money and "technical assistance" in dribs and drabs to small, community based, "democratic civil society" groups...some legitimate, some not.

In this case, that money may not have gone directly to CONAIE, but it did go to dozens of sub-groups feeding into them. That's a corrupting influence, regardless of dollar figures. Considering that it was attached to "leadership training" with a pro-US slant, it's hardly coincidental that the cumulative effect would have been to tip CONAIE in that direction, however covertly.

CONAIE may have been legit, and may still enjoy some popular support, but it's hardly the only party with standing. It is up to all the people of Ecuador, not civil-society groups, to elect a president and keep him in office to finish out his term. So far, Correa's popular support remains strong; in fact, it's gone up markedly since the coup, as no one should expect it to do for a truly antidemocratic leader.

And the inconvenient fact still remains that CONAIE issued a highly self-sabotaging press release claiming there was no coup (oh really?), that Correa isn't democratic (funny, I seem to recall him being elected, and re-elected), and on and on. I unpacked that elaborate nonsense in my earlier posting; it's linked above. It has the same Orwellian tones, and much the same rhetoric, as the Venezuelan opposition have used against Chávez, and the Bolivian (or should I say secessionist Media Luna) one against Evo. Coincidence? I think not. They've all been on the receiving end of USAID largesse, too.

And of course, there's the other inconvenient matter of CONAIE supporting that bad penny, Lucio Gutiérrez, along with his henchman, the national-police torturer from the time of Febres Cordero, mentioned above. Sucio may have once campaigned posing as "another Chávez", but anyone with an eye can see that he stopped being a man of the left once elected. I suspect he was wooed by the economic hit-men, as John Perkins (like Philip Agee, also formerly posted to Ecuador!) has described in his books. Sucio was ousted, as I recall, amid violence and rioting. And now CONAIE indirectly support him--and this torturer--with their press release saying "there was no coup"? Strange bedfellows for a respectable organization!

One doesn't have to have lived there or been on the ground with them to smell a rat when something like that happens; the historical pattern is abundantly clear. I think they've been corrupted. They're not the only ones, obviously (like I said, USAID and the CIA like to spread their efforts around), but that press release really makes them look bad. It's a shocking thing to implicitly endorse a coup by claiming it wasn't one, and it will hurt their credibility in the long run. Especially if Correa lives to finish out his term, which it looks like he will indeed do.

And in the meantime, I can hardly wait to see what other declassified or leaked documents Eva Golinger will ferret out. The one I referenced is surely not the most recent, but it indicates a pattern nonetheless.