Ecuador at the centre of the world
Pachakutik, the political arm of the Ecuadorian indigenous movement, has been the surprise of these elections.
The mass media have offered little information in recent days about the elections on Sunday, February 7 in Ecuador; and the little that has been offered is riddled with stereotypes and easy analysis of the main political options that were present. But this has not only occurred in the media; a large part of the political class, even from the left, has offered different analyses equally full of prejudices about who is who and what each of the candidates represents.
It was easy and did not require deep discussions. Andrés Arauz is the Correaist candidate, Guillermo Lasso of the neoliberal right wing and Yaku Pérez is said to be an environmentalist “Fifth Column” of the CIA. And so the disputes are eliminated and each is easily and absolutely located according to their ideological inclinations. However, the reality is always more complex.
Andrés Arauz, at the end of the tangled recount process, won the elections uncontestedly, with a difference of more than twelve points over the second place finisher; and who, therefore, must face him in a second round, to be held on April 11. Arauz represents the weariness of an important part of the population in the face of the political betrayal of Rafael Correa's citizen revolution, embodied by President Lenín Moreno. Moreno presented himself four years ago as the continuation of that revolution, having held the vice presidency with Correa in recent years. However, immediately upon his arrival in the presidential office, his about-face was spectacular, surrendering to the old neoliberal policies, which once again resulted in a deep economic crisis with thousands of layoffs and worsening living conditions, the indebtedness of the country, its surrender to the impositions of the International Monetary Fund and extensive social anger that was visible in the popular uprising of October 2019. All the bets were on the pandemic as the salvation of Lenín Moreno, through the withdrawal of protests in the face of the urgent need to face Covid-19. Andrés Arauz, now proposes the recovery, with new vigour, of the main social and economic policies of the previous stage, possibly with autonomy in relation to former President Correa, carving out his own path, but, without a doubt, always recognizing Correa’s political prominence.
Guillermo Lasso is easier to locate. Conservative, belonging to Opus Dei and a banker, eternal aspirant of the oligarchic right of the second city of the country and pole of economic development, Guayaquil, and with the clear objective of reinforcing neoliberal policies. In fact, his pacts with Lenín Moreno already had a decisive impact on the latter's policies. Reprivatization of strategic sectors, strong cuts in the state (layoffs), openness to markets and their dictates and endless extractivism, could be some of the characteristics that define his politics.
Yaku Pérez is, possibly, the candidate who has been written about the most, for and against. Representative of the Pachakutik movement, political arm of the Ecuadorian indigenous movement, he has been the surprise of these elections. Polls gave this candidacy around 12% of the vote, which would have already been an important success, since Pachakutik had never before reached a double digit percentage. And yet, until practically the end of the count, he took second place, with a count of 20%. This reality upset all the analyses made for the second round. The simplest scenario, although not altogether so, would have been a definitive race for the presidency between the left of Andrés Arauz and the neoliberal right of Guillermo Lasso. But, Yaku Pérez appeared and complications arose. Some spoke of the contest of the two lefts; others quickly placed him as a Fifth Column of the CIA, in reality closer to the right, and in confrontation -- about that there was no doubt – with "Correaism".
But the indigenous movement is much more than Yaku Pérez, representing a more complicated social and popular richness than that which emerges from a simplistic analysis. CONAIE, as a representative organization of the indigenous movement, has led the main popular uprisings against neoliberalism since the 90s of the last century. It is true that within the indigenous movement there are tendencies with different approaches and, it is also true that Pachakutik has managed to add many other popular sectors, since the indigenous population is around 7% of Ecuador's total population. Yaku Pérez has stood out for various pronouncements that clearly place him confronting that part of the left that Correaism represents, and even in absolute proximity to the right through some decisions and expressions in favor of Lasso (2017), not clearly closing the door to the markets and to meddling by the IMF, or with open statements against different governments and progressive processes in the region. But, on the other hand, the indigenous movement is more than a candidate, and its bases and some of its more consolidated leaders represent the continuity of the uprising against the neoliberal policies of October 2019, with an evident political project that, theoretically at least, would be closer to many of the approaches of the left than those of neoliberal capitalism.
As I write this text, having been an international observer in the elections and able to tap into the complex reality of this process, that second place still must be clarified in order to know who Andrés Arauz will face in the final second round. For now, it seems that some agreements were reached, followed by disagreements, on new re-counts, given the narrow difference in votes. Something that could be considered positive for the dialogue, but that is also worrying, since there is no clarity regarding this movement and, in addition, it has left aside the candidate who, without a doubt, won that first round. Some have even suggested that an attempted coup against Arauz is being prepared, hoping to leave him out of the electoral race, through obscure accusations of having received funds from the Colombian ELN guerrilla or, at least, trying to wear him down through a campaign of accusations and smears. The long hand of Colombian Uribism seems to have reached Ecuador.
And the interests are not just Colombian. The United States and Europe themselves, though not lavish in their declarations, have their sights set on the final result. Ecuador is located in the centre of the world, on the dividing line between the northern and southern hemispheres, but this country may now also strongly influence another dividing line, with the strengthening of the processes recently resumed in Argentina and Bolivia. The possibilities can be opened, once again, to end the cycles of neoliberal policies that focus on the concentration of wealth in local and transnational oligarchies, to the detriment of decent living conditions, freedoms and the rights of the broad majorities. Undoubtedly, in the latter aspect, although from differentiated programs, there are possible bridges between the Correaist left and the indigenous and popular movement represented by Pachakutik, and that is frightening to certain national and international political and economic spheres. It is a path to be explored, full of obstacles and resentments due to the hard confrontations of previous years, but it is perhaps the best possibility for those majorities in Ecuador, and in Latin America. However, desires, hopes and foreign analyses aside, without a doubt, it has to be the local protagonists who truly face these possibilities with the essential objective of the recognition of the popular, feminist, indigenous, peasant, urban sectors, in short, to Ecuadorian society, as the ones truly in need of the improvement of living conditions, working for a better present and future for all.
(Translation: Bob Thomson)
- Jesús González Pazos, Member of the Catalan group Mugarik Gabe (https://www.mugarikgabe.org/es/)
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