Commentary: Ecuador is on shaky ground

The political violence that rocked Ecuador this week, endangering President Rafael Correa, exposed the fragile nature of democracy in that country and the critical need for the president to shore up the nation's democratic institutions.

Ecuador has a history of political instability. At his first inauguration in 2007, Mr. Correa became the seventh president in 10 years. Three of his immediate predecessors were ousted by street protests much like the one that engulfed Quito on Thursday.

Although Mr. Correa called it an attempted coup d'etat, it seemed more like a disorganized mutiny by members of the police force. They were angry over a new law that puts an end to perks involving medals and bonuses and extends the period between promotions.

The armed forces quickly declared their loyalty to the president, ending the possibility of a genuine coup. Soldiers eventually rescued him from the hospital where he had been trapped for 12 hours by the lawless police.

Although the United States has had its differences with Mr. Correa's government, the State Department reacted energetically with unequivocal backing for Ecuador's democracy. "The United States deplores violence and lawlessness, and we express our full support for President Rafael Correa, and the institutions of democratic government in that country," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. She followed it up with a phone call to the president reiterating the message.

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