QUITO, Ecuador (AP) - Ecuador was under a state of siege Friday, the streets quiet with the military in charge of public order, after soldiers rescued President Rafael Correa from a hospital where he'd been surrounded by police who roughed him up and tear-gassed him earlier.With very little information (meaning I am offering little more than a guess), I interpret events differently than President Correa. It sounds like a simple coup attempt to protest cuts in benefits for public servants, the norm in South America. While I do not generally support coups, elections in much of South America do not deserve the public sanctity that they are given in Western countries. Control of the press, intimidation of other candidates and electoral fraud are all standard operating procedure on the continent.
Correa and his ministers called Thursday's revolt - in which insurgents also paralyzed the nation with airport shutdowns and highway blockades - an attempt to overthrow him and not just a simple insurrection by angry security force members over a new law that would cut benefits for public servants.
I do not conclude that Correa is a rightwing president trying to dismantle the public sector based on campaign rhetoric and political alignment. His second inauguration was attended by President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Bolivia Evo Morales, President of Cuba Raúl Castro and President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez, a rather undemocratic, left of center bunch, and in his address he promised to continue the socialist revolution while railing against the media. Even leftwing governments are limited in benefits that they can distribute to public servants.
Based on the work of North, Willis and Weingast (“Violence and Social Order”), I will propose in class that the ability of groups to seek economic rewards through the use or threat of violence is a major cause of slow growth in South American and much of the world.