Ecuador. The inefficiency of the judiciary led the government to begin a major reform work of the entire judicial system at the end of July, the largest change of the legal system in a Latin American country in 50 years. In early September, a two-month legal emergency was issued that allowed the government to re-furnish completely freely in the judicial system, which suffered from corruption and neglect and which, according to the government, risked collapsing completely. One member of the Special Transitional Commission responsible for implementing the reforms claimed that there were a total of 1.2 million unresolved legal cases in Ecuador. The entire transformation process was expected to be completed in 2015.
According to Countryaah official site, the Legal Transition Commission is headed by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, known for the arrest of Chile’s former dictator Pinochet in London in 1998, and hand-picked by President Rafael Correa himself. The Commission was a direct result of the government’s victory in the referendum on May 7, where citizens had to decide on a series of proposals for constitutional and legal reforms. Among the ten questions in the referendum, the most controversial was the issue of tougher control of media ownership. The opposition protested both against the referendum and against the government’s state of emergency but could not do much because the opposition parties were deeply divided and the government coalition Alianza País (AP) has a majority in Congress. However, even within the AP, there were those who particularly opposed the legal reform package for fear of increased authoritarianism and reduced autonomy for the justice system. Two members of government and four members of Congress left their posts and the alliance. In November, a major government reform was implemented.
In April 1994, a fire on the island of Isabela in the Galápagos group destroyed about 6,000 hectares of forest, endangering the traditional habitat of large turtles. It forced the government to issue a decree regulating tourism, passenger traffic and illegal fishing. Yet it was not until 1998 that the government banned industrial fishing in the area as a means of protecting the archipelago’s sensitive ecosystem.
In June 1994, President Durán Ballén abolished the land reforms issued in 1964 and 73. These reforms had led to the dissolution of the large estates and, for the first time, transferred land to the indigenous people and peasants. In response, CONAIE blocked the roads into numerous small and larger cities. It prompted the government to declare state of emergency and dispatch the military to bring the situation under control. In Eduador, 48% of agricultural land belonged to peasant communities – predominantly of the indigenous peoples – and 41% belonged to individuals.
In early 1995, there was a new armed clash with Peru in the El Cóndor mountain range, where the border between the two countries had never been properly marked and where there are deposits of gold, uranium and oil. Once again, Durán Ballén declared the country in a state of emergency, and despite international mediation, the killings cost dozens of dead – especially on the Peruvian side.
Towards the end of the year, ministers were investigated by Congress for misuse of public funds. The investigation led to the arrest of several ministers and the escape of Vice President Alberto Dahík from the country.
After lengthy debates, Congress approved the sale of 35% of the country’s telephone company. The government had sought to complete this extensive privatization before the end of its term of office in August 1996. At this year’s election, populist Abdalá Bucaram won with 54% of the vote over Social Christian candidate Jaime Nebot, gaining 46%. Bucaram’s first important act as president was to reassure business leaders and bankers who had become frightened at the prospect that he might fulfill his election promises to the poorest sectors of the population. Up until the election, the media had talked a lot about the likelihood of a military coup if Bucaram was elected. These rumors now turned out to be unfounded.
During a meeting in September 1996 with his Chilean counterpart, Eduardo Frei, Bucaram declared himself an admirer of the Chilean social security and housing system. At the same time, he invited the departed and highly polemical former Argentine Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo to join his government.