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In spite of the volatile nature of Ecuadorian politics during the 1980s, the country did not encounter major disruptions of internal security and successfully contained localized episodes of public disorder, such as riots and demonstrations. Since 1985, strikes and demonstrations to protest economic austerity measures and increases in living costs had been frequent. The Febres Cordero administration regularly declared such activities to be illegal and broke up street demonstrations with tear gas and arrests. Although police actions proved effective, critics often accused the police of excesses in dispersing public marches and rallies. In January 1986, several hundred Quito students clashed with police during a three-day period of demonstrations. This outbreak, in which 100 students were jailed, coincided with Febres Cordero's visit to the United States and was in part a protest against United States policies toward Ecuador.

As of late 1989, no subversive or terrorist group posed a serious threat to domestic order. A small leftist group, Alfaro Lives, Damnit! (¡Alfaro Vive, Carajo!--AVC), periodically carried out acts of terrorism and insurgency. Even though the AVC had a low potential for subversive action and numbered only 200 to 300 activists, Ecuador was determined to avoid a situation like that in the neighboring nations of Peru and Colombia, where large, well-organized, and violent guerrilla organizations presented a grave challenge to the authority of the state. An intensive police campaign in the 1986-87 period resulted in the death or capture of most of the AVC leadership.

The AVC had come to national attention in 1983 when it broke into a museum in Guayaquil and stole state swords used by the Ecuadorian national hero, José Eloy Alfaro Delgado. The AVC claimed to be non-Marxist and adopted a vague program to combat social injustice. Analysts believed that AVC members were primarily university-educated middle- or upper-class youths without close links to other domestic political movements. Some of its leaders, however, reportedly had ties with Cuba and Nicaragua. In addition, police found evidence of Libyan involvement in the training of some AVC members. AVC activists also traveled to Colombia for training and participation in M-19 military operations.

Between mid-1986 and mid-1987, the AVC kidnapped two journalists, killed four policemen in a rescue operation to free one of its members being treated in a hospital, robbed five banks and a factory, and took over several radio stations, forcing them to broadcast AVC manifestos. In August 1986, the AVC also kidnapped a prominent Guayaquil businessman; both the prisoner and his kidnappers died during a massive police assault. After this incident, police infiltration, raids, and arrests dealt heavy blows to the AVC. By the beginning of 1987, sixty-one of its members were in prison and many others had been killed, including most of the leadership.

Disorganized and essentially leaderless, the AVC had carried out few terrorist actions since mid-1987. The remnants of the organization entered into an agreement with the government in April 1989 to lay down their arms, renounce violence, and integrate themselves within the democratic system.

A small splinter group of the AVC, Guerrillas for a Free Homeland (Montoneros Patria Libre--MPL), which made its appearance in 1986, did not take part in the negotiations with the government and vowed to continue its armed resistance. Estimated to have a membership of only 100, the MPL was suspected of a series of bank robberies to amass funds for its operations.

The Ecuadorian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Ecuatoriano-- PCE) grew out of the Socialist Party, which had been formed in 1926. The PCE gradually gained in importance; in 1944 the PCE won fifteen out of eighty-five seats in the National Assembly and had one of its members appointed minister of education. In 1946 the government outlawed the PCE and jailed many of its members. The PCE was legalized during the 1948-52 term of President Galo Plaza Lasso, but was banned again when the military junta held power in 1963-66. Thereafter, the PCE was a legally constituted political party, although it had only an estimated 500 members in 1988. The PCE participated in congressional and presidential elections as part of the coalition of the Broad Left Front (Frente Amplio de la Izquierda), which gained thirteen seats in Congress in 1986. The PCE also controlled the Confederation of Ecuadorian Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Ecuatorianos--CTE), which comprised about 20 percent of organized workers (see Political Forces and Interest Groups , ch. 4).

A pro-Chinese faction, the Communist Party of Ecuador, MarxistLeninist (Partido Comunista del Ecuador, Marxista-Leninista--PCEML ), broke away from the PCE in 1963. With a membership estimated at only 100, the PCE-ML nevertheless published its own newspaper and contested elections as part of the Democratic Popular Movement (Movimiento Popular Democrático--MPD), a coalition that won four seats in the 1986 congressional election. Both the PCE and PCE-ML were legally recognized as of 1989 but had little political impact and were not regarded as constituting an internal security risk.

Data as of 1989

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