The struggle for power in Ecuador

Image: Diego Alexander (Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador)
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By BRUNO FABRICIO ALCEBINO DA SILVA*

Ecuadorian society faces a critical moment in its democratic journey

The assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio shocked the country and brought to light a series of complex issues involving Ecuadorian politics, the electoral environment and violence associated with drug trafficking. The crime took place in the midst of a tense electoral campaign, in which the center-left stands out as the favorite, in the figure of Luisa González.

It raises suspicions about the security of democratic processes in the country and highlights the vulnerability of political figures facing threats and risks. In 2017, Villavicencio ran and was elected for a position in the National Assembly of Ecuador. His election reflected his growing political influence and the support he received from voters concerned about issues of transparency, accountability and social justice.

 

Journalism and activism

Fernando Alcibiades Villavicencio Valencia, born on October 11, 1963, had a career marked by critical journalism and the defense of social causes, he emerged as one of the main opponents of the government of former President Rafael Correa. His role as an investigative journalist brought him into conflict with powerful interests, including allegations of corruption and links to drug trafficking. In addition, his participation in the Construye Movement and his candidacy for the presidency represented one of the fronts of the right in the election that will take place next Sunday, being a staunch supporter of the current president Guillermo Lasso during his period in the National Assembly, although he was in fifth place in the race presidential.

Fernando Villavicencio began his journey as a journalist and social communicator, graduating in journalism and communication at the Cooperativa University of Colombia. His foray into politics began with his role as one of the founders of the Pachakutik Movement in 1995. Pachakutik is an Ecuadorian political party representing the interests of indigenous peoples and Afro-Ecuadorian communities. Fernando Villavicencio stood out for his defense of the rights of these marginalized groups and his criticism of policies that harmed their communities.

The Pachakutik Party is an integral part of Ecuador's complex political scene, characterized by a plurality of ideas, currents and interests. Pachakutik stands out for its indigenist and plural orientation, representing not only a political platform, but also a social and cultural movement that seeks to guarantee the rights and interests of indigenous communities and other marginalized populations in the country.

 

Ferocious critic of Rafael Correa's government

The assassinated candidate was a figure that polarized opinion and was involved in several criticisms and controversies. His political trajectory and anti-corruption activism were marked by several controversial issues.

His position against Rafael Correa, sensationalist and noisy, would correspond to the lavajatismo in Brazil and in other Latin American countries. His denunciations and exposures often targeted high levels of government and instances of misconduct. He was one of the most prominent voices to denounce the “Arroz Verde” scandal, which raised suspicions about the financing of Correa's campaign in 2013. However, just as “Lava Jato” also faced criticism and controversy, the presidential candidate did not escape questioning about his tactics, motivations and approaches.

Fernando Villavicencio was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defamation and criticism made against the former president. He fled to indigenous territory in Ecuador and later obtained asylum in Peru. His return to the country after the departure of Rafael Correa from the presidency was seen by many as an opportunistic return.

The tragic and sudden death cast even more shadows over his figure. While some see him as a hero who gave his life in the fight against corruption and impunity, others suspect possible murky motivations behind his murder. His death also raised concerns about the state of public safety in Ecuador and the country's challenges with regard to crime and violence.

 

“Death Cross”

The “cross death” is an Ecuadorian constitutional provision that allows the president to dissolve parliament and call general elections in cases of serious political crisis.

The measure was invoked by President Guillermo Lasso, resulting in the dissolution of the National Assembly last May. This action, seen by many as a political maneuver to contain the opposition and ensure control of the government, contributed to the escalation of pre-election tensions. Guillermo Lasso never had a parliamentary majority and faced three impeachment requests.

Fernando Villavicencio, who had held the position of federal deputy until May, saw his mandate interrupted due to the dissolution of the National Assembly. This action had a direct impact on his political career as he was no longer able to carry out his parliamentary duties and represent his constituents.

The call for early general elections reconfigured the political environment and renewed electoral competition. This also affected Fernando Villavicencio's position as a presidential candidate.

 

Ecuador's political situation

In the last two decades, Ecuador has gone through a troubled political, economic and social situation, marked by complex challenges and significant changes. One of the factors that influenced this dynamic was the tree of oil, which had a profound impact on the trajectory of the country.

In the early 2000s, the country experienced a period of political and economic instability, characterized by successive changes of president and a financial crisis. It was in this context that Rafael Correa rose to power in 2007, promising a progressive agenda and a more nationalist approach to natural resources, including oil.

O tree oil between 2005-2010 played a crucial role in the Ecuadorian economy during part of Rafael Correa's government. High prices on the international market allowed the government to finance social programs and infrastructure investments. However, this over-reliance on the commodity has also brought challenges, as the Ecuadorian economy has become highly vulnerable to volatility in global oil prices.

Despite the initial benefits, the management of the tree of oil has also been shrouded in controversy. Critics argued that Rafael Correa's government was not adequately diversifying the economy and that it was not preparing the country for a post-Brazilian scenario.tree. In addition, the intensive exploration of the raw material raised environmental and social concerns, especially in indigenous communities affected by the development of oil fields.

Rafael Correa's government was also marked by political tensions and allegations of authoritarianism. While he was popular with some sections of the population, others accused him of restricting press freedom, harassing political opponents and concentrating power in his hands.

In the following years, falling prices in the global market and other economic factors led to an economic slowdown in Ecuador. This, combined with internal structural and political issues, contributed to political instability and social protests. The country has gone through moments of unrest, including demonstrations in 2019 against the austerity measures proposed by the government of Lenín Moreno.

The current situation in Ecuador is marked by a series of challenges, including the post-pandemic economic recovery, the need for economic diversification, sustainable environmental management and the search for political stability.

 

Correa's exile

The trajectory of Rafael Correa, former president of Ecuador, has been marked by dramatic and controversial moments, including his current situation of exile and the subsequent presidency of Lenín Moreno.

Rafael Correa, who governed Ecuador from 2007 to 2017, was a polarizing figure who implemented developmental and nationalist policies, emphasizing the redistribution of wealth and natural resources. During his tenure, Ecuador experienced a period of relative economic stability, driven in part by high oil prices, which financed social programs and infrastructure investments.

His legacy is characterized by advances and setbacks. Rafael Correa promoted investments in education and health, reducing poverty and strengthening the welfare state. However, he faced economic challenges due to falling oil prices and a lack of foresight in spending. As president, he passed a Communication Law in 2013 accused by the media of curbing freedom of expression and had environmental controversies by allowing oil exploration in the Amazon.

After leaving office and suffering political and judicial persecution, Rafael Correa chose to live in exile in Belgium. His absence made room for Lenín Moreno, his deputy, to assume the presidency in 2017. The candidate was elected by the fprogressive forces led by Rafael Correa and quickly began their shift to the right.

Lenín Moreno took a more pragmatic approach to politics and economics, moving away from the policies of Rafael Correa. This change in direction brought with it a series of economic reforms and adjustments, including the search for agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to face fiscal challenges.

The relationship between Rafael Correa and Lenín Moreno deteriorated significantly, and former President Correa was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for corruption and involvement in an alleged bribery scheme in 2018. The former president claims that the accusations are politically motivated and part of a pursuit.

Rafael Correa's troubled political and legal situation and the exile he chose emphasize the internal tensions and deep divisions in Ecuadorian politics. In addition, they highlight the complex issues of governance, democracy, and justice that Ecuador faces.

 

Assassination in full campaign

The assassination of Fernando Villavicencio took place in the midst of a fierce presidential campaign, characterized by mutual accusations between the candidates, social unrest and uncertainty about the country's political future. He was hit by three bullets after leaving a rally in Quito. This violent act abruptly halted his political rise and sparked a wave of consternation and anger among his followers.

Crime highlights the fragility of security for political figures in a context in which powerful interests, political rivalries and the presence of organized crime can intertwine, resulting in tragedies like this one. Investigating the circumstances of the murder and identifying those responsible are crucial to restoring confidence in the democratic process and justice in Ecuador. His tragic death raises questions about the candidates' safety in an increasingly hostile political environment.

 

Climate of violence and drug trafficking

Ecuador is facing increasing challenges related to drug trafficking and the violence associated with it. The country's geography places it in a strategic position for drug trafficking, making it vulnerable to criminal influences. The homicide rate has increased significantly, crime in the country caused the homicide rate to double in 2022, reaching 25 deaths per 100 inhabitants, reflecting an environment of insecurity that impacts not only citizens, but also political stability.

About two weeks ago, Agustín Intriago, mayor of the city of Manta, was shot dead. President Lasso, in response to the assassination, declared a state of exception in some coastal regions of Ecuador due to the “severe internal commotion”. He argued that organized crime had infiltrated state structures, political organizations and society at large. The measure included the imposition of a curfew and the joint use of the police and the Armed Forces to maintain public order.

 

Impact on democracy and elections

With the indecision of Ecuadorian voters, ranging from 41% to 9%, according to surveys by four companies registered with the National Electoral Council (CNE), are a reflection of the complexity of the political scenario, twelve days before the presidential and legislative elections on the 20th. The surveys by different companies show different results. According to the Click Report one day before the assassination, Luisa González would be leading with about 30% of the votes, followed by Yaku Pérez with 14%, Otto Sonnenholzner with 12%, Jan Tropic with 9% and Villavicencio with 7%. The tragic death of a candidate also adds uncertainty to the democratic process, raising questions about polarization, trust in institutions and electoral participation.

While some candidates, such as Correismo-linked Luisa González, emphasize social justice and human rights, others, such as Yaku Pérez and Otto Sonnenholzner, focus on indigenous, environmental, and economic issues. Jan Topic represents a conservative and pro-market approach. This delicate situation calls for a deep reflection on the political options available and their impact on the Ecuadorian nation.

In this context, Ecuadorian society faces a critical moment in its democratic journey. The recent tragedy will shape the course of the elections and the country as a whole. Careful consideration of candidates' proposals and visions is critical to ensuring a future that preserves democratic values, strengthens institutions, and promotes Ecuador's continued progress.[1]

*Bruno Fabricio Alcebino da Silva Bachelor of Science and Humanities from the Federal University of ABC.

Note


[1] Thanks to Professor Gilberto Maringoni for his collaboration.


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