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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
Ecuador's 'open mike' revolution
By Hannah Hennessy
BBC News, Quito

"Long live insurrection", urges one piece of political graffiti, a common sight on the streets of Ecuador's capital, Quito.

Ecuadorean graffiti reading 'Lula, no asylum'
The graffiti urges Brazil's president not to grant asylum to Mr Gutierrez
Here high in the Andes mountains, that spirit of insurrection is alive and well.

Banging pots and pans, blowing whistles and chanting slogans, the men, women and children of this small South American country have brought down yet another president.

Some say demonstrating is a national pastime in this country of around 13 million people.

If the events of the past week are anything to go by, that seems to be the case.

On Wednesday, Lucio Gutierrez became the third Ecuadorean head of state since 1997 to be deposed by massive street protests.

'Open microphones'

That revolutionary fervour was buoyed in part by a local radio station, La Luna.

It has had an open mike policy since it was founded 11 years ago, but in the past week this small outfit which works out of a tiny basement room, has become a catalyst for change.

The station's manager Ataulfo Tobar says it has given Quito's disgruntled people a unique opportunity of sharing their frustration with the political situation.

"Most forms of media in Ecuador don't do what we do; they keep the public uninformed.

Interior of Radio La Luna, Quito
Radio La Luna has played a pivotal role in the protests
"We are journalists, we are not political leaders. We are communicators, we are not social agitators," said Mr Tobar, as dozens of people crowded on the stairs outside La Luna waiting for their opportunity to talk.

"The people of Ecuador are sick of the acts of the former president and politicians in this country and what we have done is open our microphones so people know the reality of what is going on," he added.

Mr Tobar said the government of Mr Gutierrez cut the station's phone lines to try to prevent people communicating with it in mid-April.

People here in Ecuador need to know that there is punishment for this kind of governments
Bernardo Canizares, film director
"So we gave out mobile phone numbers and because mobiles are so popular here in Ecuador, people turned into reporters on the street, calling and telling us what happened and sending text messages urging others to join the protests."

It worked, thousands of people surged onto the streets of Ecuador in protests buoyed by La Luna's irreverent and modern way of communication.

Following calls from the radio, they marched with balloons and even rolls of toilet paper, symbolising what Mr Gutierrez meant to the many of the people of Ecuador.

The radio says it insists on peaceful protests. For the most part this was the case, although as Mr Gutierrez was ousted and security forces cracked down on the protesters some of them burned a government office and looted buildings.

Demonstrator by the Brazilian ambassador's residence, Ecuador
Overall peaceful protests have seen episodes of burning and looting
And even after his departure, Radio La Luna kept on calling the people to the streets.

"Ecuadorean society doesn't trust traditional media. La Luna has been a catalyst for change," said Bernardo Canizares, a 32-year-old filmmaker, as he protested outside the residence of the Brazilian ambassador in Quito.

This became one of the focal points for protests in the days after Mr Gutierrez was ousted because Brazil offered asylum to the former president, who remained in the residence as the Brazilian and Ecuadorean authorities negotiated his safe passage to exile.

Demonstrators clustered outside the high white walls surrounding the building, watched over by police in riot gear. They waved banners with slogans like "Show your face, you coward" and chanted phrases like "Lucio, prison".

'Real democracy'

Mr Canizares said many people in Quito regarded Mr Gutierrez as a dictator.

"He took lives, he took money from the presidency for public funds and he should be prosecuted.

"We have gone through a lot of trouble to get him out of the presidential palace, to take him out, and we have the need, people here in Ecuador need to know that there is punishment for this kind of governments."

He said people were not content with simply helping remove him from office.

Garbage in front of the residence of the Brazilian ambassador in Quito
Authorities fear Mr Gutierrez's departure might further fuel unrest
"People are trying to get control of their fate as a nation. We are trying to really build a real democracy, a democracy that responds to the needs of the people.

We are building a different country, a different society, a society that is for the people, by the people and the people should be in control."

As drivers passed by beeping their car horns in support of the protesters, Irena Torres said it did not matter how often Ecuador had a new president if the public was unhappy.

She said that even though Ecuador now has its seventh president since 1996, stability and democracy could only be achieved when the country's politicians listened to the demands of Ecuador's people.

Next to her, Norma Canto had brought four of her children to the protest.

"We need to teach values to our children," she said.

I believe I am making a difference
Miguel Canto, 13
"This is a way of teaching them how to chose and ensure they are not manipulated by people who have wealth and power."

Her 13-year-old son, Miguel, agreed. "I believe I am making a difference. I want to be a good person and if one day I could be president I will never hurt anyone."

As he spoke, the protesters erupted into song. "We are singing the national anthem because we are very patriotic; that is why we demonstrate," said Irena Torres.



SEE ALSO:
Ex-Ecuador leader granted asylum
21 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ex-Ecuador president seeks asylum
21 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ecuador Congress sacks president
20 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ecuador's Congress sacks judges
18 Apr 05 |  Americas
Ecuador lifts state of emergency
17 Apr 05 |  Americas
US offers to ease Ecuador crisis
08 Apr 05 |  Americas
Q&A: Ecuador upheaval
21 Apr 05 |  Americas


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