Frustrated Ecuador Will Give New Leader Enough Rope

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It'd been some time since Latin America played host to a coup d'état. In fact, when Ecuadorian president Jamil Mahuad was ousted Friday, it was the first military coup in the region in more than a decade. And the early signs are that it was good timing. Ecuador, which has been plagued by economic and social unrest, and where medical services have been virtually nonexistent for the past three months, seemed calm in the days following the ascension of Vice President Gustavo Noboa Bejarano to the presidency — the country's fourth leader in six years.

The revolutionary factions believe — for now — that Noboa offers a break from politics as usual. A career academic who never aligned with a political party, Noboa was appointed by Mahuad to join the presidential ticket without having to campaign. "The nation appears to be more stable for now," says TIME Latin America bureau chief Tim McGirk, reporting from Quito. McGirk, who interviewed Noboa Tuesday morning, reports that Ecuador's indigenous leaders agreed to suspend protests for a few months to allow reforms to take root. "Considering that the recent presidents have either been grandstanders or have shut themselves off from the public, Noboa seems to be good news. From what we hear from his students, he has a social conscience. He's not beholden to the political parties and he's made it clear that he wasn't appointed by the generals and is not beholden to the military."

But it'll take more than a new president to reassure the the international community. The U.S. and E.U. have not yet recognized Noboa's regime, and it will probably be some time before any IMF assistance — requested in the disastrous aftermath of El Niño two years ago — comes along. "The impression among international leaders is that they have all bent over backwards to help Ecuador, and Ecuador hasn't done anything to help itself," says McGirk. "The new president will have such a hard time raising money to alleviate the social unrest that it seems as though he'll be constantly looking at his watch." Indeed, while Noboa will have a period of goodwill to restore fiscal order, the Ecuadorian people have shown the limits of their patience.