The Minister in Ecuador (Gonzalez) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 15.]
Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 93 of August 2, 1935,26 concerning the internal political situation in Ecuador, I have the honor to report that although Congress will convene in two days more, the outlook continues uncertain and it is still impossible to forecast what may occur when that body meets. The supply of rumors in Quito seems inexhaustible, but invariably when they are analyzed it is clear that they have been fabricated from little if any truth. Moreover, the more astute political observers, and even the most active leaders, are unwilling to risk an assertion as to what action either the President27 or Congress may take. Two motives appear to be responsible for this attitude, first, uncertainty as to developments, and second, an inherent desire to be on the right side of the fence.[Page 528]
However, the President in an interview published in El Dia of August 4th has thrown some light on the situation. As concerns the opposition in Congress he admits that his information is to the effect that Congress is not sympathetic with him and that a terrible and destructive opposition will be fomented against him. He expresses the possibility, notwithstanding, that faced with the practical reality of life, the members of the legislative body may be conscientious in their action and may wish to be the spiritual leaders of the country at this moment of profound crisis and great intranquility. It is not believed that the President would be very disillusioned if Congress were not actuated by these high motives.
With regard to the rumor that he intended to present his resignation to Congress, the President stated that he had considered taking this step in order to avoid any bloodshed, and that he had actually discussed the expediency of such action with a well-known Liberal. He had planned to withdraw as President imposing the following conditions: First, that his successor would be a Liberal, but not a member of that Party, so that the conservatives might not become alarmed; second, respect for the freedom of election; and third, that he be permitted to go abroad immediately. He added, however, that the circumstances have changed. “My intentions were not understood and comments were made respecting my possible resignation which could affect my honor. Now, I shall not resign. I cannot resign. I must satisfy the Ecuadorean people.”
In reply to an inquiry whether he would resign if Congress petitioned him to do so, the President stated that if Congress had understood his ideals, and had not threatened him, he would have done so gladly. Unfortunately, he believes, the threats, aversions and personal hatreds against him have caused excitation in the people, and now in order to resign, he must have convincing manifestations from the people that they desire his separation.
At this point the reporter questioned the President concerning the report that some fifty thousand people were to be brought into Quito while Congress was in session for the ostensible purpose of intimidating that body. He replied that he had recently received visits from workmen in Riobamba and Ambato who had expressed a desire to live in Quito during the session of Congress in order to sustain the Government. More, he did not know.
Questioned further as to what attitude he would adopt in case the masses should attack the legislators, he stated that the police had received categorical instructions to maintain complete order. In reply to the inquiry whether, if the police force were insufficient to maintain order,—and it is notably inadequate,—he would send the Army in response to the request of Congress, the President evinced considerable annoyance. He stated that police duty is not the normal [Page 529]occupation of the armed forces, nor should their military point of view be disturbed by listening to incendiary speeches and insults against the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, who is the President of the Republic. He further showed his pique by adding that he, and no other person, would determine whether the Army should mount guard in Congress, that “Congress is not omnipotent; it cannot order whatever may occur to it; its powers are limited by Article 49 of the Constitution.”
It would appear from the statements made by the President in the interview that he recognizes fully that Congress, if it can muster the necessary majority, proposes to impeach him. On the other hand, it is indicated that the President does not intend to allow such a situation to develop without availing himself of every means of defense. It is this very situation which preoccupies the opposition most. They realize that Dr. Velasco Ibarra is a strong and determined fighter and that, should he become obsessed with the idea that it is a contest between the people and the politicians, they are uncertain as to what extremes he might resort to maintain himself in power. It is not believed that the point at issue is considered so important by the opposition that they would risk a situation developing to that point, but nevertheless, it is the fear which is most voiced.
Another persistent rumor which deserves mentioning is the possibility of a military dictatorship which would call a constituent assembly to modify the present Political Constitution. While this rumor must necessarily be severely discounted, it does voice a seemingly general desire of the more intelligent people of the country. Both members of the Government and of the opposition express dissatisfaction and even disgust with the present political system which permits without serious cause the impeachment of the President. The desire to correct this situation is apparently general. The rumor has it that the movement would be headed by Colonel Ricardo Astudillo, Minister of War, Colonel Carlos Flores Guerra, (retired), and Colón Eloy Alfaro, Minister to Colombia. These three men effectively control the whole Army and appear to be on the most friendly terms with the President. It is said that they, with the acquiescence of Dr. Velasco, would take over power, convoke a constituent assembly and once the Constitution is modified, call new elections. I would repeat that this rumor does not appear to be sufficiently well-founded and that the resultant situation would be too serious and delicate to be contemplated without more mature consideration. Nevertheless, the motives and objectives assigned to the movement do represent a profound desire of the Ecuadorean people which cannot be indefinitely postponed.
In view of the categorical denial of the President that he intends to resign, it is not expected that an important development will take [Page 530]place before several days after the first meeting of Congress. Some indication of the course of events will be given in the election of the President of the Senate. If Dr. Carlos Arroyo del Rio, President of the Liberal Party, is selected, this must be interpreted that the combined Liberal and Left Group is doubtlessly in control, in which event it can be anticipated that steps will be taken immediately by the opposition to impose its conditions. However, it is felt that although the opposition may control Congress and could, if it wishes, muster sufficient votes to impeach Dr. Velasco, the feeling is very strong in Ecuador that the President has accomplished much for the country under adverse circumstances, that he has the solid backing of the masses, and that the country could fare much worse. Consequently, some political observers believe that if the opposition is in control it will endeavor carefully to prepare public opinion before launching the momentous question of the impeachment of the President of the Republic.