From Rafael Correa to Guillermo Lasso

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By ERIC TOUSSAINT*

The division of the left gave victory to the right in the Ecuadorian elections

On April 11, 2021, in the second round of the presidential elections, Guillermo Lasso, the right-wing candidate, defeated Andrés Arauz, the candidate supported by Rafael Correa and part of the left. Lasso was elected thanks to the division of the left, since a large part of the left, which had lost all confidence in Rafael Correa, asked for a null vote. The votes of the popular field, which had a clear majority in the first round of the February 2021 elections, were divided and this allowed a former banker to be elected president. The situation is serious because an opportunity to break with Lenin Moreno's policies was lost. Lasso, although critical of Lenin Moreno's positions, will continue with neoliberal policies, submission to private interests, especially the powerful Ecuadorian banks, and the US superpower. How is it possible that an important part of the votes in the popular camp did not go to Andrés Arauz to prevent the election of Guillermo Lasso? This can be explained by the rejection of Rafael Correa's policies, especially since 2011, by the left, especially in CONAIE, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador and FUT, the United Front of Workers.

Lasso's election as president opens a new stage in the implementation of a policy that is even more favorable to Ecuadorian capital, foreign multinationals, the alliance between right-wing presidents in Latin America and the continuation and even strengthening of American dominance in the continent. . The April 11, 2021 election result is a dark day for the popular camp. To understand how an important part of the popular field refused to call a vote in favor of Arauz to defeat Lasso, it is necessary to analyze the policies followed by Rafael Correa after he was re-elected president in 2010.

A reminder of Rafael Correa's policies from 2007 to 2010

Let's start by recalling Rafael Correa's presidency from 2007 to 2010. Ecuador provided an example of a government that took the sovereign decision to investigate the debt process to identify illegitimate debts and then suspend payment. The suspension of payment of a large part of the commercial debt, followed by its repurchase at a lower cost, demonstrates that the government did not limit itself to making speeches of denunciation. In 2009, the government unilaterally restructured part of its external debt and won a victory against its private creditors, mainly American banks. In 2007, the government of Ecuador, at the beginning of Rafael Correa's presidency, entered into conflict with the World Bank. Between 2007 and 2010, several important positive policies were implemented or initiated: a new constitution was democratically approved, announcing important changes that were not really or deeply implemented; the US military base at Manta on the Pacific coast was closed; an attempt was made to create a Bank of the South with Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay; the World Bank tribunal was abandoned.

Rafael Correa's move in 2011

The year 2011 certainly marked a shift in Ecuadorian government policy on several fronts, both socially and ecologically, in trade and debt. Conflicts between the government and various important social movements such as CONAIE on the one hand, the Workers Unitary Front, the education unions, the women's movement and the student movement on the other, festered. On the other hand, Correa made progress in trade negotiations with the EU, in which the president multiplied the concessions. In terms of debt, since 2014, Ecuador began to gradually increase its recourse to international financial markets, not forgetting the debts already contracted with China. On the ecological front, in 2013, the Correa government abandoned the non-oil exploration project in a very sensitive part of the Amazon.

The abandonment of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative in 2013

The Yasuní-ITT initiative was presented by Rafael Correa in June 2007. It consisted of leaving 20% ​​of the country's oil reserves underground (about 850 million barrels of oil), located in a region of mega-diversity, the Yasuní National Park, in the northeast of the Amazon. As Mathieu Le Quang explains:

To compensate the financial losses of not exploring the field, the Ecuadorian State demanded from the countries of the North an international financial contribution equivalent to half of what they could have earned from the exploration (3,6 billion dollars based on the price of oil in 2007) . This ambitious policy, especially in its objectives of changing the country's energy matrix, which, although it explores and exports its oil, is also an importer of its derivatives and remains dependent for the generation of electricity.

And he continues:

A strong decision by the Ecuadorian government was to register the Yasuni-ITT Initiative in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that is, to have emphasized the “non-emission of greenhouse gases” that would be generated by the “non-exploitation of Petroleum".

In August 2013, Rafael Correa, who had been re-elected president of Ecuador for the third time in February, with more than 57% of the votes in the first round, announced the end of the project. He justified his decision by the real lack of firmness in the commitments assumed by the different countries to finance the non-exploitation of Yasuní-ITT oil.

Fundamentally, during the presidency of Rafael Correa, there was no abandonment of the extractive-export model. This consists of a set of policies aimed at extracting the maximum possible quantity of primary goods (fossil fuels, minerals, wood, etc.) them for the world market (in the case of Ecuador, bananas, sugar, African palm, flowers, broccoli, etc.). Regarding broccoli production in Ecuador, François Houtart wrote:

It is worth mentioning the study carried out in 2013 on the production of broccoli in the region of Pujilí, in the province of Cotopaxi. 97% of broccoli production is exported to countries, most of them capable of producing broccoli (USA, EU, Japan), due to comparative advantages, low wages, less demanding environmental laws. The production company monopolizes water, which is (no longer) sufficient for neighboring communities; she bombs the clouds to prevent the rains from falling on the broccoli but on the surrounding area. Chemicals are used even within 200 meters of homes, as required by law. Contaminated water flows into rivers. Workers' health is affected (skin, lungs, cancers). Contracts are made weekly, with a foreman who receives 10% of the salary, which avoids social security. Overtime is often unpaid. The company that processes broccoli for export works 24 hours a day in three shifts. It was not uncommon for workers to be forced to work two shifts in a row. The union is prohibited. Furthermore, the two companies, now merged, had their capital, one in Panama and the other in the Netherlands Antilles.

In addition, exports of cultivated shrimp and tuna (fished industrially) must be added.

This model has many harmful effects: destruction of the environment (open pit mines, deforestation, pollution of watercourses, salinization/poisonization/soil erosion, reduction of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions…), destruction of livelihoods natural from entire populations (native peoples and others); depletion of non-renewable natural resources; dependence on world markets (commodity or agricultural exchanges) where prices of export products are determined; maintenance of very low wages to maintain competitiveness; dependence on technologies developed by more industrialized countries; dependence on inputs (pesticides, herbicides, transgenic or non-transgenic seeds, chemical fertilizers…) produced by a few large transnational companies (most of them coming from more developed countries); dependence on the international economic and financial situation.

François Houtart, who closely followed the Ecuadorian process and supported Rafael Correa's policies, did not fail to express his criticisms, which he had communicated to the government. Shortly before his death in Quito, he wrote about agricultural policy:

These policies are also short term. They do not take into account natural changes and their long-term effects, food sovereignty, workers' rights, the origin of rural poverty. They emphasize an agro-export model presented as a goal, without indicating the consequences.

And needed:

As authors, we asked ourselves in our report whether it was possible to build 21st century socialism with 19th century capitalism (…) Once again in history, it is the countryside and its workers who pay the price of modernization. This was the case for European capitalism in the 1920th century, the Soviet Union in the XNUMXs, and China after the Communist Revolution.

Rafael Correa and social movements: a conflicting relationship

Rafael Correa's government had great difficulty in taking into account the contributions of a certain number of leading social organizations. Correa's political line and leadership of Alianza País, his political movement, consisted of confronting as much as possible the largest indigenous organization, CONAIE, the largest teachers' union - the Sindicato Nacional dos Educadores, UNE - the union of the Petroecuador company ( national oil company), and a considerable number of social organizations, especially the trade union organizations grouped in the FUT and the women's movement. It should be remembered that FUT remained the axis of resistance during the Correa government. All these organizations were regularly attacked by the executive branch, which accused them of mobilizing on a corporate basis to defend their privileges. Furthermore, Rafael Correa did not take into account the historical demand, raised mainly by CONAIE, for the integration of the indigenous component in the decision-making process on all the main issues that affect the government's lines of action. For its part, CONAIE, which was fighting for the general principles of the Constitution to be transcribed into law, did not hesitate to confront Correa. On several occasions, the government tried to promote measures, but without first organizing a dialogue with organizations from the affected social sectors. This line reminds us of the policy of the Lula government in Brazil, when it undertook a neoliberal reform of the social security system in 2003. Lula carried out a campaign for this reform, attacking the achievements of public service workers, who were presented as privileged.

Among the most serious disputes, which oppose the executive power to Ecuadorian social organizations, is the bill on water, on the one hand, and Rafael Correa's policy of opening up to foreign private investment in the mining and oil industry, on the other. other. The Ecuadorian economy is mainly based on oil revenues. It should not be forgotten that in 2008, oil accounted for 22,2% of GDP, 63,1% of exports and 46% of the general state budget. During an extraordinary assembly held on September 8 and 9, 2009 in Quito, CONAIE strongly criticized Correa's policies, which it denounced as neoliberal and capitalist. The CONAIE statement stated: “(if) it requires the State and the government to nationalize natural resources and implement an audit of concessions for oil, mining, water, hydraulics, telephone, radio, television and environmental services, external debt, collection of taxes and social security resources”, as well as “the suspension of all concessions (extractive, oil, forestry, water, hydroelectric and those linked to biodiversity).

After September 30, 2009, CONAIE took action, organizing rallies and roadblocks against the water bill. President Correa reacted by opposing mobilizations against the government and, in principle, any negotiations, and later raised suspicions about the indigenous movement, claiming that the right, and in particular former president Lucio Gutiérrez, had become active within from him. Finally, CONAIE obtained a public negotiation at the highest level: 130 indigenous delegates were received at the government headquarters by President Correa and several ministers and obtained that the government backtracked on several points, especially with the establishment of a permanent dialogue between CONAIE and the Executive, and with amendments to bills on water and on extractive industries.

Another social conflict also broke out when teachers mobilized against the government, under the aegis of UNE, the main union of the category (in which the MPD party – Movimientopula Democrático, electoral arm of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador – exerts an important influence). Here too, the conflict finally ended in a dialogue. In November and December 2009, a third social front developed with the protest movement in universities, against a reform project that mainly aims to reduce university autonomy, which is considered in Latin America as an irreversible social advance and a guarantee of independence. with regard to political powers.

Globally, Rafael Correa's government quickly showed its serious limits when it came to defining a policy that took into account the point of view of social movements, without confrontation.

In 2010 and 2014, there were important social mobilizations against the policies of the Correa government. The demands raised by the organizations that, around CONAIE, called for the struggle in June 2014, explain a lot about the government's orientation: resistance to mining and oil extraction, the criminalization of social protest, a new labor code, another energy and water policy, rejection of the reform of the Constitution that would allow indefinite re-election, rejection of the signing of a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, rights of indigenous communities and, in particular, rejection of the closure of community schools. Regarding the desire of the Correa government to close community schools, François Houtart wrote in 2017:

The plan to close 18.000 community schools (called “poverty schools”) in favor of “millennium schools” (at the beginning of 2017: 71 built, 52 under construction: and at the end of 2017, 200 in operation) accentuates the problems. Undoubtedly these millennium schools are well equipped, with competent teachers, but within a philosophy that breaks with traditional life and with an openness to a modernity today questioned for its social and environmental consequences. Nor do they respond easily to the constitutional principle of bilingual education. In addition, the transport system in many cases has not been able to meet the needs and forces students to walk for hours on roads in poor conditions, also causing a high rate of absenteeism.

In December 2014, Rafael Correa wanted to expel CONAIE from its facilities, which led numerous Ecuadorian and foreign organizations to demand that the government reverse this decision. Here too, the government backed down. In late 2017, the Correa government wanted to strip the legal status of a left-wing environmental organization called Acción Ecológica. It took a wave of national and international protests for the authorities to finally renounce this attack on freedom.

Conclusion on the Presidency of Rafael Correa

Since the beginning of his first term, Rafael Correa composed his government taking care that ministers from the left and ministers more or less directly linked to different sectors of the traditional Ecuadorian capitalist class coexist, and this has led to perpetual arbitrations. Over time, Correa made more and more concessions to large capitals, whether national or international.

Despite rhetoric in favor of changing the productive model and “21st century socialism”, in ten years of presidency Correa did not initiate any profound changes in the country's economic structure, property relations and relations between social classes. Alberto Acosta, former Minister of Energy in 2007, former President of the Constituent Assembly in 2008 and opponent of Rafael Correa since 2010, wrote with his colleague John Cajas Guijarro that:

The lack of a structural transformation means that Ecuador remains a capitalist economy linked to the export of raw materials and, therefore, linked to a long-standing cyclical behavior linked to the demands of transnational capital accumulation. Such long-standing cyclical behavior is originated by the contradictions of capitalism itself but, at the same time, it is highly influenced by dependence on the massive export of almost unprocessed primary products (extractivism). In other words, capitalist exploitation – both of the workforce and of Nature – due to international demands, keeps Ecuador “chained” to a balance of economic upheavals and crises that originate both internally and externally.

Lenín Moreno or the return of neoliberal policies and submission to Washington's interests

In 2017, at the end of Rafael Correa's presidential term, and when he was succeeded as president by Lenín Moreno (a candidate supported by Correa), the debt surpassed the level reached ten years earlier. Moreno quickly called the IMF again. This provoked strong popular protests in September-October 2019, which forced the government to capitulate to popular organizations and abandon the decree that provoked the revolt.

It should also be remembered that Rafael Correa's government had offered asylum to Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012. Correa resisted pressure from Britain and Washington to hand him over. Lenin Moreno, who succeeded Rafael Correa in 2017, descended into ignominy by handing Assange over to British justice in April 2019 and stripping him of the Ecuadorian nationality that Correa's government had granted him in 2017.

In 2019, Lenin Moreno recognized Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela while Guaidó called for an armed intervention by the United States to overthrow the government of President-elect Nicolas Maduro.

In 2020 Lenín Moreno made a humiliating new agreement for Ecuador with the IMF and in 2021 he intends to pass a law to make the Central Bank completely independent of the government and therefore even more servile to the interests of private banking.

His popularity was reduced to nothing: in the latest polls, Lenin Moreno had an approval rating of just 4,8%. The results of candidates supported by Moreno in the parliamentary elections and in the first round of the February 2021 presidential elections did not exceed 3%.

Guillermo Lasso's program and the new phase

The arrival of Rafael Correa to the presidency of Ecuador in 2007 was thanks to the social mobilizations that took place from 1990 to 2005. Without these mobilizations, Correa's proposals would not have had the support they received and he would not have been elected president. Unfortunately, after a good start, Correa came into conflict with an important part of the social movements and opted for a modernization of extractive-export capitalism. Later, his successor Lenín Moreno broke with Rafael Correa, and returned to the brutal politics of neoliberalism. This hardline neoliberal policy will be developed by Guillermo Lasso. He has clearly announced that he wants to lower corporate taxes, that he wants to attract foreign investment, that he wants to give even more freedom to bankers, that he wants to consolidate the policy of trade liberalization by joining the Pacific Alliance. It is likely that Guillermo Lasso will try to integrate leaders linked to Pachakutik and CONAIE in one way or another into his government or administration. If this succeeds, CONAIE and Pachakutik will emerge even more divided than on the eve of the second round of elections. It is fundamental for the future of the popular camp to radically and actively oppose the government that the Lasso will form.

Once again, it will be social mobilizations that will be able to put an end to these policies and put the anti-capitalist structural change measures indispensable for emancipation back on the agenda. CONAIE and a series of union organizations, feminist associations, left-wing political organizations and environmental collectives elaborated in October 2019 an excellent alternative proposal to capitalist, patriarchal and neoliberal policies, and should form the basis of a broad government program, called Programa do People's Parliament. The issue of rejecting the policies of the IMF, the World Bank and illegitimate debts will return to the center of social and political battles. In a document made public in July 2020 by more than 180 Ecuadorian popular organizations, we find the following demand: “suspension of payment of the external debt and carrying out an audit of the external debt accumulated from 2014 until today, as well as citizen control over the use of contracted debts.

Final Reflections on the April 11, 2021 Vote

Let's look at the data offered by Election Day yesterday.

With 98,84% counted:

⇒ Arauz: 47,59%, corresponding to: 4.100.283 votes.

⇒Lasso: 52,4%, which corresponds to 4.533.275 votes.

⇒ Null votes: 16,33% corresponding to 1.715.279 votes.

Total voters: 10.501.517 voters.

⇒Absenteeism: 2.193.896 people.

Null votes reached 9,5% in the first round, growing 6,83%.

In terms of votes:

⇒Null Vote February 2021: 1.013.395 votes.

⇒Null vote April 2021: 1.715.279 votes.

⇒Difference: +701.884 votes.

In general terms, much of this difference in nulos can be attributed to the campaign of Pachakutik, CONAIE, social movements and leftist organizations. This means that less than half of its voters opted for the invalid vote. It should be remembered that Yaku Pérez obtained 19,39% in the first round, which is equivalent to 1.798.057 votes. If we assume that the majority of this vote corresponds to Pachakutik's vote, this means that 39% of his votes opted for the null vote. If, as is more likely, there are other sectors that voted null, it would not be risky to say that the null vote that corresponds to Pachakutik should be around 30% of his vote. That is, one out of three Pachakutik voters opted for the null vote, which can be considered their hard vote.

Unfortunately, the remaining 70% went to Lasso, probably in rejection of Correismo, due to the long history of aggression against the popular movement, but it still meant a vote for the right. It also shows the fragility of voting for a new alternative that escapes the polarization between Correismo and the traditional right.

This also shows that if CONAIE, Pachakutik and the other leftist organizations that called for the null vote had called to vote against Lasso or had called to vote in favor of Arauz, it was very possible to defeat Lasso and put pressure on Arauz to take takes into account the demands expressed both in the text of the CONAIE of October 2019 and in the proposal of the popular parliament of July 2020. .

*Eric Toussaint is a professor at the University of Liège. He is the international spokesperson for the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts (CADTM).

 

 

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