THE VICTORY of Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador's presidential election on Sunday is another sign of the growing rejection of neo-liberal policies and associated austerity across Latin America. Some 13 million people live in Ecuador, and 60 percent of them exist below the official poverty line.
Gutierrez was an army colonel who two years ago backed an uprising headed by Ecuador's indigenous people, among the very poorest people in the country. That rising toppled the government, but the new one continued the same policies as its predecessor.
These included putting up prices of basic commodities, and pushing austerity measures in order to repay International Monetary Fund loans. The new government jailed Gutierrez for six months and threw him out of the army for backing the rising. That only served to increase his popularity with ordinary people, and on Sunday he defeated millionaire banana magnate Alvaro Noboa in the presidential election.
Gutierrez's victory is a humiliating defeat for the rich elite that has traditionally dominated Ecuador. But the people who voted for Gutierrez will have to look to their own struggles to win change.
During the election campaign Gutierrez went out of his way to reassure business that he is no threat to their interests. He has also pledged to work with the IMF.