Ecuador’s President Embraces Bolivarianism

Ecuador’s President Embraces Bolivarianism

by Stephen Lendman

Hugo Chavez Frias gained an Ecuadoran ally last
November when voters rejected Washington’s choice and
the country’s richest man and elected Raphael Correa
its President by an impressive margin.  Correa is a
populist economist and self-styled “humanist, leftist
Christian” promising big changes for another Latin
American country long ruled by and for the elite and
against the interests of ordinary people Ecuador
abounds in whose voices finally spoke and prevailed. 

Correa took office January 15 in a country of 13
million, over 70% of whom live in poverty.  They voted
for a man promising social democratic change and the
same kinds of benefits Venezuelans now have under Hugo
Chavez they too now have a chance to get.  Correa is
the country’s 8th president in the last decade
including three previous ones driven from office by
mass street protest opposition against their misrule
and public neglect. 

Correa campaigned on a promise of change including
using the country’s oil revenue for critically needed
social services Ecuadoreans never before had.  He
promised a “citizens’ revolution” and to be an
“instrument of change” beginning by drafting a new
Constitution in a Constituent Assembly he hopes will
be authorized by popular referendum following the same
pattern Hugo Chavez chose in 1999 following his first
election as Venezuela’s President in December, 1998.

Ecuador’s majority right wing Christian Democratic
Union (UDC) party tried stopping him but overwhelming
popular support for it finally got enough members in
it to go along.  The vote came February 13 and won out
54 - 1 with two abstentions in the nation’s
single-seat legislature.  Most opposition deputies
walked out before the vote when it was apparent they’d
face defeat.

Following the vote, Ecuador’s Supreme Electoral
Council (TSE) set April 15 for the referendum vote
that’s virtually certain to pass as popular support
for its purpose runs around 77%.  After passage, as
expected, voters in June or July will select 130
delegates to the Constituent Assembly that should
begin meeting in August or September.  It then will
have six to eight months to write a new Constitution
that would go before voters to be ratified, and if it
changes the Congress or presidency would require new
elections be held for legislators and the nation’s
highest office.

It things go as planned, Ecuador is now poised to
change its method of governance the same way
Venezuela did it eight years ago.  Raphael Correa
promised it, and he’s now moving ahead to give his
people the same kind of 21st century socialism
Venezuelans now have and embrace.  Ecuadoreans want it
too and now have their best chance ever to get it
under a leader working for them just as Chavez does
for Venezuelans with overwhelming approval.

Correa is confident of success and told his people on
February 17 on his weekly radio program he’ll resign
if his supporters don’t win a majority of seats in the
Constituent Assembly.  He said he’d rather go than
“warm the bench and be just another of the bunch of
traitors and impostors we’ve had in the
presidency….”  That’s not likely as long-denied
Ecuadoreans overwhelming support their new President
and the process of change he’s now poised to deliver
for them the same way Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela
that works.

It’s one more step left in Latin America but just a
small one on a continent long under Washington’s
ominous shadow watching events closely and not about
to let its control slip away without resisting.  Any
leader trying knows the threat, but those willing to
risk it are the ones to watch.  Hopefully others in
the region and beyond will join them, and they have a
courageous model in Hugo Chavez who defied the odds
and continues moving ahead boldly after eight
successful years.  If Chavez can do it, why not others
if they’ll try.  The more who do, the stronger the
process for real social change becomes that with luck
could be unstoppable.  What a glorious impossible
dream, but even those kinds come true.

Correa intends a further challenge to US hegemony by
following through on another campaign promise to close
the major US military base at Manta when the 10 year
treaty authorizing it expires in 2009.  Doing it won’t
make Pentagon top brass happy as it’s their largest
base on South America’s Pacific coast and one costing
many millions to build.  It’s certain they’ll try
getting Correa to reconsider and won’t go light on the
pressure doing it.  But as of now Minister of Foreign
Relations Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated her country’s
position: “Equador is a sovereign nation, we do not
need foreign troops in our country (and they likely
will have to go).”

Correa also plans a new relationship with US-dominated
international lending agencies following through on
his campaign to renegotiate the country’s $16 billion
foreign debt and hasn’t ruled out an Argentine-style
default to free up revenue for vitally needed social
programs including 100,000 low-cost homes, raising the
minimum wage, and doubling the small “poverty bonus”
1.2 million poor Ecuadorans get each month.  For now,
Correa opted to make a scheduled $135 million debt
payment to foreign bond holders while pursuing his
greater aim to renegotiate the whole debt and annul
the odious part of it resulting from previous
governments’ corrupt dealings it profited from at the
peoples’ expense.

Correa is also negotiating bilateral trade and other
economic deals with Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo
Morales based at least in part on Venezuela’s
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas or ALBA model.
It’s the mirror-opposite of FTAA or NAFTA-type
one-way pacts sucking wealth from developing states
agreeing to them.  Instead it’s based on sound
principles of complementarity, solidarity and
cooperation to achieve comprehensive integration among
Latin American nations agreeing to them and being
willing to work together toward developing their
“social state” in contrast to US-type deals being all
for its corporate giants and the privileged.

These are the early bold steps of a courageous new
leader promising and now proceeding to follow in the
footsteps of the example Hugo Chavez set.  He’s off to
a fast start on a road sure to have promise and perils
but with great potential payoff for his people if he
can persevere and succeed.  He’s showing he intends to
try.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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Saturday at noon US central time.


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