A strike organised by police officers in Ecuador turned into an attempted coup last week.
The police said they were protesting against a public security law, which they claimed would end their bonuses and medals.
When Ecuador’s president Correa confronted some police protesting in the capital Quito on Thursday of last week, the police responded with tear gas.
Correa came to office on the back of a mass movement against neoliberalism. He is often identified as part of the wave of radical leaders that have emerged in Latin America over the last decade, like Chavez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia.
But increasingly Correa has tried to balance between the left and right, leaving him weaker and under pressure.
While police who had been protesting started returning to work in parts of the country by early afternoon, the tension continued in the capital while Correa remained in hospital.
State media dominated the airwaves, accusing the country’s right wing of an attempted coup and alleging involvement of the opposition Patriotic Society Party and the influence of ex-president Lucio Gutierrez.
Correa said that police told him he would not escape from his hospital room if he did not revoke the public security law.
Demonstrations against the coup took place as the day progressed. At 10pm soldiers opened fire on the police and rescued Correa.
Correa remains popular. Initially his government cancelled debt and increased health spending. He also closed a US military base—which is one reason the US may be inclined to encourage coups. But recently Correa has opened the economy up to multinationals.
Although indigenous organisations in Ecuador have been in conflict with the Correa administration, important groups such as the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), made strong statements condemning the coup attempt.
The organisation has led protests against the Correa government during the last year. Indigenous and non-indigenous communities protesting against mining and oil expansion have faced repeated repression.
CONAIE cited Correa’s failure to build alliances with Ecuadorian social movements as one reason he was vulnerable to attempts by the right to destabilise the government.
They said, “While the government has dedicated itself exclusively to attacking organised sectors like the indigenous movement, workers’ unions, etc, it hasn’t weakened the structures of power of the right.”
While opposing Correa’s support for the oil and mining interests, they rejected the “disguised right wing support” for the attempted coup, saying they “will continue to struggle for the construction of a plurinational state with a true democracy.”
Ecuador has offered inspiring examples of mass struggle in recent years.
On three occasions—in 1999, 2000 and 2003—attempts to impose punishing neoliberal programmes were defeated by mass movements, including those led by CONAIE.
These impressive movements, bringing together the national organisation of indigenous people and the national trade unions, hold the key to Ecuador’s future.