Mainstream Weekly

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2013 > Ecuador: Rafael Correa’s Victory and Unchallenged Triumph of Latin American (...)

Mainstream, VOL LI No 21, May 11, 2013

Ecuador: Rafael Correa’s Victory and Unchallenged Triumph of Latin American Left

Saturday 11 May 2013, by Ginu Zacharia Oommen


“Citizens will be in charge, not the ‘Capital’,” said President Rafael Correa after being elected the President of Ecuador for the third consecutive time with an impressive margin. Rafael Correa defeated his closet rival, Guillermo Lasso, a millionaire, hawkish, neoliberal and the Executive President of Banko de Guayaquil, with a margin of nearly 40 per cent votes. Alongside the presidential election the PAIS bloc, the formidable alliance of Socialist, progressive, Communist parties, won 95 out of 137 seats in the Ecuador Parliament. Characterised as a disciple of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, soon after the electoral victory, President Correa dedicated his presidency to Chavez. The Ecuadorian Communist Party leaders, Diego Vintimilla and Jose Agualsaca, were elected to the Parliament securing a high percentage of votes.

Significantly, when I was in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, in November 2012, to attend the General Council meeting of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), in a personal interview Amparo Herara, a former Member of Parliament of Ecuador, commented that “Rafael Correa has successfully transformed Ecuador from a ‘no man’s land’ to a ‘Sovereign State’”.

Rafael Correa, a US educated economist, had started his political career in 2004 as the Minister of Commerce in the government of President Alfredo Palacio. However, he was thrown out from the Cabinet for his staunch opposition to the neoliberal policies and this made him very popular among the masses. The defiant Correa along with the eminent Marxian economist, Alberto Costo, launched a massive movement against the pro-American regime, and in 2006 Rafael Correa was elected the President with a thumping majority. Since then he has won a string of elections, including the presidential election in 2009, a constitutional referendum in 2008, a Constituent Assembly and finally the present presidential election. Rafael Correa brought political stability to the oil exporting Latin American country with a population of 14.6 million people which had seen seven Presidents in the decade before he took office in 2006.

Ecuador, known for its oil production and tourism, was under the direct influence of the United States. Ecuador, an OPEC member, is heavily dependent on oil exports and American MNCs like TEXACO controlled 90 per cent of the oil industry with the help of the pro-American political class. In 2006 Rafael Correa created his own “Citizens’ Revolution”, a socialist-oriented economic programme with some similarities to what Chavez has done in Venezuela. He defied the existing financial norms of Ecuador, natio-nalised banks, oil companies and imposed five per cent tax on all capital taken from Ecuador. Moreover Correa restructured the financial system, took control over the Central Bank, and forced it to bring back about $ 2 billion of reserves held abroad. A vast amount of Ecuadorean oil revenue was illegally held by the American MNCs, and in 2008 Correa made the most controversial announcement that Ecuador was officially defaulting on $ 3.9 billion foreign debt that it considered “illegitimate”. In addition, the Correa Government made it mandatory for all banks to keep 60 per cent of their liquid assets inside the country and formulated new contracts with oil companies thereby increasing the share of income that goes to the state.

During my stay I had the privilege to participate in the mammoth cycle rally led by President Correa on the day (November 12) he filed his election nomination and the colossal participation of workers, poor, women and youth in the rally showed the unchallenging popularity of this Leftist leader.

Like his fellow comrade in Venezuela, he launched an all-out war against the United States and threw out a majority of the MNCs which were looting the resources of Ecuador. His daring decisions included his refusal to renew the lease of American airbases and in 2009 he expelled two US diplomats, accusing them of interfering in the internal affairs of the country. Moreover he openly challenged the USA and its allies by offering asylum to the Wikileaks founder, Julien Assange, who now stays at the Ecuadorian Embassy at London. Interestingly, the UK’s conceited threat to invade the Ecuadorian Embassy was diplomatically defeated by the extraordinary courage and tenacity of Correa.

Another significant contribution of Correa was the demolition of the traditional authority and control held by the Catholic Church, corporate media and the American backed MNCs in the Ecuador society. In 2009 a majority of Ecuadorians voted for a Constitution which has invariably brought sweeping changes in the polity. Correa’s determined “Citizens’ Revolution” has lifted thousands of people out of poverty and, according to the UNDP, poverty levels have dropped from 38 per cent in 2006 to 28 per cent in 2012. Correa’s popularity is attributed to the pro-people policies as the government invested a substantial amount of oil revenues in health, education and housing. He is credited with making education and health care more accessible and also a vast expansion of subsidised housing credits to $ 500 million in 2009. At present nearly 1.9 million people receive $ 50 a month from the government and a special financial package has been formulated for the education of children from the indigenous population. Moreover the government has bought hundreds of private health clinics and converted them into neighbourhood clinics to accommodate the downtrodden sections. The headmistress of the neighbourhood school in the indigenous town of Imbabura told me that the ‘Correa Government’s new educational initiatives have reduced the school dropouts to a great extent’. She further added that hundreds of teachers have been appointed and special scholarships have been introduced to encourage students and teachers.

To conclude, Rafael Correa’s stunning victory has consolidated and ratified the lasting appeal of the Leftist movements in the Latin American region. The victory of the PAIS has undoubtedly added immense impetus to the fearless fight against imperialism. However, the premature demise of Hugo Chavez is a great loss for the progressive sections of Latin America and Rafael Correa is expected to fill that void. The present political vacuum in the region caused by the unfortunate departure of Chavez is a serious issue. We hope Rafael Correa would continue the legacy of Chavez and certainly help the region in building 21st Century Socialism in Latin America.

Dr Ginu Zacharia Oommen is a Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi and the National Vice-President of the All India Youth Federation (AIYF). He was in Ecuador in November 2012 and observed the first phase of the election campaign there.

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.