February was a politically tense month in Ecuador, as gatherings in Quito and Guayaquil were organized by the opposition to President Rafael Correa's government. Perhaps the one which had the greatest visibility was the “March for Dignity” held on February 11, 2010, which was organized by the Guayaquil Municipal government [es] and headed by its mayor and former presidential candidate Jaime Nebot. The organizers say that the march's main purpose was to protest the amount of money allocated to the city's budget, however, others believe that the march was more political in nature.
During his speech at protest, Nebot compared the per capita allocation that Guayaquil receives with that of other Ecuadorian cities. According to Nebot, each resident in Guayaquil receives US$0.75 and residents of other cities receive up to US$508 [es]. He added that even though most other cities will receive an increase in their 2011 budgets from the central government, Guayaquil's budget will decrease.
The government has defended its budget allocation indicating that Nebot's numbers are incorrect. This, in turn, began a war of words between Nebot and Finance Minister María Elsa Viteri, as well as with Fernando Cordero Cueva, President of the Legislative Assembly, who was called a “liar” by Nebot. It went as far as the Municipal government of Guayaquil declared Cordero persona non grata.
The campaign is continuing with slogans such as “Funds to Guayaquil” and “Defense of its Model of Development,” and various other local demands. However, there are some who see this campaign as propaganda, and that Mayor Nebot only wants increased political power. This tension can be seen in the blog of Rafael Mendez Meneses, who lives in the community of Naranjal about an hour from Guayaquil, and published a fictional conversation between a protest supporter and a protest opponent [es]. Here he attempts to debunk some of the rhetoric used by Nebot and his supporters about their reasons for the march. In addition, Mendez criticizes the fact that local government employees are granted a day off from work to attend the march.
This video produced by YouTube user mehagopipinebot says that they will not attend the march and asks why does Nebot want more money for the municipality? By placing photos of nice public parks and tourist attraction next to neglected areas of the city, they make the argument that Nebot has not attended to the needs of residents.
The recent march also gave increased political visibility to Nebot, who has emerged as one of the most recognizable of opposition leaders. However, he is criticized by blogger Xavier Flores Aguirre, who writes that Nebot lacks credibility and that it benefits the central government having an opposition figure as incompetent as Nebot:
Al final, la revolución ciudadana tiene el opositor ideal: territorialmente limitado, sin propuestas nacionales y sin horizonte político”. Corolario: Nebot está encerrado en un cajón con vista al Guayas (un cajón, al que se le colocarán en algún momento cirios para que sea lo que está destinado a ser: el ataúd para el último dinosaurio de la llamada partidocracia). Corolario2: la oposición (no me refiero, en este punto, necesariamente al Alcalde Nebot, sino a los políticos –o políticos wanna be- que depositan en él sus expectativas) es la mejor aliada del Gobierno central.
One blogger who believes that Nebot has a case for defending his city, and thinks that he should be more firm is El Libertario, a Quito-based blogger. He writes that in terms of business, these resources must be better managed and its own revenues used more efficiently:
En vez de estar mendigando más rentas al gobierno central, Nebot debería plantarse duro para que los impuestos cobrados a sus conciudadanos se queden en su ciudad o aún mejor en los bolsillos de los propios guayaquileños para que ellos los destinen de forma voluntaria a mejorar su ciudad; eso si haría una verdadera diferencia.
Instead of begging more revenues from the central government, Nebot should stand tough so that the taxes collected from its citizens stay in his city or even better, in the pockets of Guayaquil’s people so they can voluntarily improve their city; that would make a real difference.