Tomorrow is Election Day for the United States of America. The American people will gather to choose their next president. Some of us will worry for The Future of Our Nation. At least one of us will wish Batman were running for president instead of Trump or Clinton.
The presidential election takes me back to Ecuador, a nation of notorious political instability, and That Time I Saw a President Kicked Out of Office.
Lucio Gutiérrez was Ecuador’s president for only a couple of years, but long enough for his name to become a punchline in my family. Gutiérrez put up a lot of billboards during his presidency that read “Lucio Construye,” meaning “Lucio Builds.”
These signs, which often stood near roads under construction, were intended, I presume, to promote some initiative to improve Ecuador’s public infrastructure. What they really signified was unfinished roads and bumpy driving conditions. When my family and I were out driving, a “Lucio Construye” billboard warned us to brace ourselves for jolts. We reached a point at which any bumpy roads provoked me and my brothers to shout “Lucio construye!” from the back seat.
Following some political unrest, the Congress of Ecuador voted on April 20, 2005 to remove Gutiérrez from power, and the military publicly withdrew their support for him. Gutiérrez was overthrown by his own government. He fled the Presidential Palace in a helicopter, escaping mobs of protesters.
I heard his helicopter fly overhead. At the time, I was sitting quietly in my World History classroom at school, listening to updates on the political situation. My teacher had abandoned the day’s history lesson—after all, history was being made that day. As Gutiérrez fled, we heard the drone of a helicopter far overhead. “That’s his helicopter!” someone exclaimed, and it may have been. Alternatively, it may well have been a news or military helicopter, but I like to think it was the ex-president on the run.
Some of the protests were pretty rowdy. At one point, I got a face full of tear gas while walking to school. The wind blew the gas from a nearby protest to my school campus. It hit me like a bucket of vinegar, and stung quite a bit. On a scale of one to ten, one being a mild insult and ten being a jellyfish sting, the tear gas was maybe a three.
Since I didn’t actually see Lucio Gutiérrez removed from power, I suppose the title of this post is a bit inaccurate. It should be “That Time I Heard a President Kicked Out of Office” since I heard the helicopter, or even “That Time I Smelled a President Kicked Out of Office” because of the tear gas, but those titles just are just weird.
In the end, the vice president, Alfredo Palacio, assumed the presidency, later to be succeeded by Ecuador’s current prez, Rafael Correa. The political unrest surrounding Gutiérrez subsided, only to be replaced by conflicts surrounding Correa. In fact, when I double-checked my facts for this post, I learned that Correa blamed Gutiérrez for allegedly provoking unrest in an attempt to instigate a coup. Another president, another crisis. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
I love Ecuador, my homeland, mi patria, but its politics aren’t the greatest.
Tomorrow is Election Day for the United States of America. I know a lot of people are worried, but hey—nobody is attempting to overthrow our president at the moment, and there probably won’t be tear gas. It could be worse. The road ahead may be rough, with plenty of bumps and jolts, but we can always shout “Lucio construye!” and keep moving forward.