Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: April 2005 (Page 1 of 4)

Sand Storm in Iraq

My buddy Brad H., who is a badass and flies FA-18 fighter jets in Iraq, sends along these incredible photos of a recent sand storm that enveloped his base. He writes:

“I just thought I would send a quick note with a couple of pictures from a sandstorm that rolled through the base this afternoon. I didn’t see it “coming”, since I pretty much sleep all day and fly/work all night. When I woke up around 7:00 PM, I could only see about 8 feet in front of my face.

I honestly didn’t think storms like this existed outside of Hollywood. When you see the shots, you’ll know what I mean. We had a section of jets airborne when this rolled through. Can you imagine trying to land in these conditions?”

The Future of Weblogs and Journalism

The Economist: “Is Rupert Murdoch right to predict the end of newspapers as we now know them?”

OJR: “Advertising, editorial lines blur as bloggers’ salaries tied to traffic.”

Business Week: “Blogs Will Change Your Business

Also, as an aside, I discovered recently that Bluffton, South Carolina, right down the coast from my home town of Beaufort, is doing some really interesting stuff with Weblogs and grassroots journalism. (I’d never have expected it, as South Carolina is, how should I say this, not exactly a hotbed of new media innovation. But anyway.)

On their site,, they encourage readers to send in news items, and all the staff writers have Weblogs. It’s pretty interesting. Pretty Korean, in fact.

Ecuador Wrap-Up

A few more items re: Ecuador. I think this’ll be my last Ecuador-related post for a while.

First, an on-the-ground report from my Ecuadorian friend Dennis P. I emailed him to ask what he thought about all the turmoil. To paraphrase Dennis’s response in Spanish, he said this:

“It’s all a mess. I don’t know. I don’t really have an opinion. I may be leaving the country this summer.”

That’s a great encapsulation of the dismay inherent in the situation for Ecuadorians. It sucks. Maybe I can leave Ecuador soon.

Other stuff:

MSNBC: “Ecuadorean immigrants worry from afar.”

AP: “Political power on the airwaves: Ecuador radio station has role in ouster of president.”

Randy Paul: “Lucio Gutierrez’s departure from Ecuador to asylum in Brazil is not yet a done deal as the government of Ecuador (which despite my distaste for Gutierrez, certainly has its own legitimacy problems) is not going to grant him safe passage just yet.”


Checking in on Ecuador

Jordan L. points out this interesting photo essay in the Ecuadorian daily El Comercio.

And as for the ousted Lucio Gutierrez, the AP tells us that he has taken refuge in Brazil.

Another Ecuador Analyst Weighs In

Mike A. is another gringo friend of mine who knows a lot about Ecuador. I lived with him briefly duing his year in Cuenca. He writes:

“I was surprised to see [Lucio’s ouster] happen when it did, but I’d imagine that Febres Cordero and/or (likely and) Nebot cut a deal with Palacios or believed that they could more easily control Palacios than Gutierrez. My guess is that the latter is more likely – although Gutierrez lacked any significant political base, he showed a bit of audacity in his willingness to challenge (if only verbally) entrenched interests (parties), and given the opportunity to remove him, entrenched interests shrugged their shoulders and said “why not?” As I mentioned before, I don’t think it’s shocking that it happened – I remember the street over/under on Lucio’s time in office being measured in months from when I was there for the election. I’m just surprised that it wasn’t more dramatic than it was. Maybe Ecuadorian politics are becoming more civilized – but I expected something more along the lines of the mass protests that first led Lucio to a taste of power …”

More from Mike F. in Ecuador

Mike says:

“Here are a couple of visuals for you. The first one, angry, is the Prefect
(left arrow) of Pichincha and the mayor of Quito (right arrow) on the 6th of
April. They have been leading the charge to oust Lucio. Is it any wonder
we have descended into the debacle that is now on CNN?

The second one is a picture taken on a cold, rainy, Sunday in Gualaceo, and
should speak for itself about priorities. Do you think that the person in
this picture gives a rat’s ass about the people in the first picture?

Perhaps a much more appropriate question is whether the people in the first
picture give a shit about the person in the second.”

More Ecuador Coverage

Miami Herald editorial: “Politics-by-mob claims another victim.” Key passage:

“It’s hard to feel sorry for President Lucio Guti�rrez of Ecuador, the latest victim of the ominous slide of democracy that is roiling the Andes, because he has no one but himself to blame for the blatant power grab that produced his downfall. Still, Mr. Guti�rrez, who had been in office for little more than two years, was chosen in a free and fair election, and the only acceptable way to remove such a figure is by constitutional means. When elections mean nothing, neither does democracy.”

Amen. (Emphasis mine.)

AP: “QUITO, Ecuador — Former president Lucio Gutierrez holed up in the Brazilian Embassy here yesterday after Brazil offered him political asylum, awaiting a flight into exile as Ecuadorans tried to return to normalcy after a week of street violence and political chaos.”

Washington Post editorial: “…like Bolivia before it, Ecuador is suffering from a dangerous crumbling of the political order it has lived by since it embraced civilian democratic rule 25 years ago.”

New York Times: “A day after President Lucio Guti�rrez was driven from power, his successor, Alfredo Palacio, named a new cabinet on Thursday, including a left-leaning economy minister likely to appeal to poor Ecuadoreans, while working to gain legitimacy with Washington and Ecuador’s Latin American neighbors.”

And finally, Les Blough, Editor or Axis of Logic, directs me to this dispatch on his site. It’s from a few days back but contains some interesting images.

Ecuador: the Day After

For the third time in eight years, Ecuadorians woke up to a new president this morning.

Before we get to the media coverage, here’s my quick take on the situation. Someone just asked me what’s “the story” here, and whether the new president will be any better than Lucio. Here’s what I told him:

The story is this: Ecuador is messed up. The government doesn’t work. There’s vast corruption. Gutierrez, in order to gain the support of the country’s vast poor population, made campaign promises (social programs, etc.) that he couldn’t keep. He had to embrace conservative fiscal policy in order to get international monetary aid, and never had high approval ratings after breaking with a major indigenous party after they’d helped him gain office.

The new president will be no better–as we saw in Bolivia in 2003, when their president was similarly ousted and replaced by his VP, who is himself now under pressure to resign, protesters who see that they’re able to overthrow a president before his term is up only become emboldened over time. Sadly, the prospects for Ecuador are not good.

It’ll be interesting to see how far the new prez will go in throwing bones to the rival parties; anti-Americanism is on the rise, and the US has an important military base in Manta, on the northern coast, from which Plan Colombia coca eradication flights have reportedly being launched. And Gutierrez was a staunch supporter of Dubya.

Here’s what some notable voices are saying the day after Lucio’s ouster:

Reuters: “US urges new elections in Ecuador after ouster.”

BBC News: ” Ecuador’s ousted President Lucio Gutierrez has been granted political asylum in Brazil, a day after he was removed from office by Congress.”

The Economist has a nice overview of Lucio’s troubles: “A coup by Congress and the street.”

Romulo Lopez, who publishes a Spanish-language Weblog about Ecuador, says that essentially nothing has changed; Ecuador has effectively swapped one bad president for another.

My Buddy Mike F. in Cuenca, Ecuador Writes…

“I commend you on your journalistic integrity in
not saying that Lucio was gone until he actually was,
that was more than one could ask of the local press.
As the gangs of youth stormed past the recently
sidelined cops and militaries, commentators abruptly
started calling him ex-presidente. Perhaps the best
scene of the day was in the congress (tucked away in a
different building, out of harm’s way) naming Palacios
as president and then literally running out the door.
Tough talk, fast feet. There was another congressman
who, in response to why the congress feels the need to
get rid of a president every 2 years, said that this
was like the Sept 11th of Ecuador, when the president
fell like the twin towers. He didn’t strike me as the
smartest member of this ensemble.

So, on to current events. Around 1:30, about the
same time the congress was voting on his removal, the
Armed Forces announced that they had withdrawn support
of Gutierrez. At this time, the troops that had been
forcefully holding back the protests stepped aside and
watched them pass, waving and shaking hands. As the
crowd approached, Lucio was flown out of the
presidential palace in a helicopter, but then they
wouldn’t let his plane take off from the airport. The
airport had been closed, but some said that there were
people on the runway preventing the plane from taking
off. Lucio then apparently hopped into a “Super Puma”
helicopter and was last seen heading west, supposedly
toward Tena. News reports had him asking for asylum
in Panama (I’ve also heard Chile and Venezuela), but
there was nothing confirmed.

Perhaps the strangest part about this all is what
other people have done on the sidelines. Someone is
Guayaquil (Renan Borbua, possibly related to the prez)
sent 150 busses full of gov supporters to Quito, but
the mayor blocked them by dumping sand and rocks on
the highways that lead into the city. The same
apparently happened here, with people coming up from
the south.

Arvella just walked in and said that Abdala had
just escaped out of Machala 15 min ago. Police in
Guayaquil had closed the airport and issued a warrant
for his arrest, but a pocketful of money will still
get you a lot here. This however, means that I should
take a look at current events. I’ll be in touch


The President of Ecuador Has Been Overthrown

Lucio Gutierrez, the President of Ecuador, has been ousted. Vice President Alfredo Palacio Gonzalez has been sworn in. Just got word via Publius Pundit.

Here’s what the wires are saying:

AP: “Ecuador’s Congress Votes to Remove Embattled President From Power After Week of Protests.”

MSNBC: “Ecuador�s Congress fires president; Vice president named to replace embattled Gutierrez”

Reuters: “Ecuador’s Congress fires President Gutierrez.” “Ecuador’s President Gutierrez Ousted Amid Protests.”

And here’s the text of Publius Pundit’s post:

“Congress voted to remove President Lucio Gutierrez from power today, and swore in his vice president, Alfredo Palacio Gonzalez, a St. Louis cardiologist, as his successor. The legislature acted after 50,000 people filled the streets of Quito and fought troops and police in pitched battles. A Chilean photographer was killed and more than 180 were injured.

Congress was emboldened to make the move after the police chief of Quito suddenly resigned, saying he was unwilling to fire on demonstators. Gutierrez prompted the protests against his two-year old government by stacking the Supreme Court with his political cronies. These cronies were responsible for dropping corruption charges against another friend of Gutierrez�s, former President Abdala �El Loco� Bucaram, who said he was �older and crazier than ever� and announced plans to return to Ecuador after eight yeas� exile, to become the next Hugo Chavez. That prompted widespread demonstrations in the streets for the past six days.”

I’ve sent a note to my buddy Mike F., who lives in Cuenca, to get an on-the-ground assessment. I’ll continue to monitor the coverage; my thoughts are with the people of Ecuador, where I spent 2003 teaching English. Stay tuned…

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