Ecuador: Left set for Victory – Democracy Under Attack!

“Now is the time to build international solidarity, & demand that the Ecuadorian people must be allowed to determine their future through free & fair elections on 11 April without any external intervention.”

Susan Grey

By Susan Grey, Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America & Vauxhall CLP member

Ecuador is set to hold its presidential election run-off on 11 April 2021, and the contrast between the two candidates could not be more stark.

Andrés Arauz, from the “Union for Hope” movement, is a progressive candidate who promises a return to the people-first investment led approach of Rafael Correa which lifted thousands out of poverty. Guillermo Lasso, in contrast, is a bank owner, former Coca Cola Executive and candidate of the economic elite who is promoting an even more extreme form of the IMF-led privatization and austerity which has already had a massive humanitarian cost under current President Lenin Moreno.

Arauz comfortably won the first round in February and is favourite to win the run-off against Lasso, but forces both inside and outside the country, are hard at work attempting to prevent the elections from going ahead in order to stop a left-wing victory.

This has led to concerns being raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges on interference in the election process and alarming calls for the military to intervene in the electoral process.

Despite the right-wings efforts and the inevitable corporate media smears, Andres Arauz and his party “Union for Hope” were the clear leaders in both the Presidential election first round and accompanying National Assembly elections on February 7.

In the National Assembly elections, the “Union for Hope” was the single largest party with 32% of the vote.

But with 33% of the vote Arauz’s lead was not enough to win the presidency outright, which is why April’s second round is now due to take place.

Voting is compulsory in Ecuador and the turnout of 81% was similar to that in 2017 and 2013. The election process was largely peaceful, although international observers did have concerns about barriers to voting, including campaigns of disinformation discouraging voting, extremely long queues and, for some Ecuadorans voting abroad, harsh weather conditions.

Arauz, a 35 year old left-wing economist, is campaigning on a promise to reverse the public spending cuts of the outgoing government, increase taxes on the wealthy and end deals with the IMF. He will rebuild alliances across Latin America, including membership of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). His manifesto marks a return to the Citizen’s Revolution of Rafael Correa, President from 2007 to 2017.

The Correa-led Citizen’s Revolution introduced a period of stability and social progress in Ecuador, with increased investment in free health care and free university education. The minimum wage was increased and social security benefits improved. Taxes were increased for the rich and measures were taken to combat tax evasion and reduce capital flight. New agreements with foreign oil companies meant that the country benefitted from its own natural resources. Correa also favoured regional alliances across Latin America and removed all US military bases from the country.

Correa’s successor, Lenin Moreno, was elected in 2017, promising to continue Correa’s Citizen’s Revolution.  However, he broke that promise, shifting rapidly to the right, implementing neoliberal policies, cutting public spending and withdrawing Ecuador from both UNASUR and ALBA. Furthermore, as his policies ran into problems he turned to the IMF for loans, trapping the country in further cuts and austerity.

After Moreno’s shift to the right Correa and his allies were repeatedly obstructed when they attempted to form new political parties and Correa himself was banned from standing for election. Finally, in 2020 Arauz’s “Union for Hope” Party was launched, incorporating former leaders of the Citizen’s Revolution and other left wing and indigenous groups.

As president, Arauz will prioritise rebuilding the economy and the recovery of the health system, which has been badly hit first by Moreno’s spending cuts and then by the global pandemic.  He promises to implement a vaccination programme to tackle the Covid-19 crisis and to boost the family economy by giving $1000 to a million families in the first week of government to cover debt repayments, buying medicines and other essentials. He also plans to recover Ecuadorean money that has been taken out of the country and to end IMF-imposed austerity.  

In the longer term his dream is to build a first rate education system and recovering the future for Ecuador’s young people, using science and technology and universal connectivity. He also recognises the value of Ecuadorean diversity and plans for both financial and educational support for the country’s many indigenous groups, and especially for the preservation of ancestral languages.

First and foremost, Arauz promises “a government that respects the dignity of the people, that does not take advantage of the crisis to give more power to the rich, and that does not take advantage of the crisis to be able to kick the people.”

After four punishing years of neoliberalism and increased inequality under President Moreno, the people of Ecuador have reasserted their preference for the progressive policies of the Citizens Revolution, and if the elections go ahead on April 11 it is highly likely Arauz will be the victor.

Now is the time to build international solidarity, and demand that the Ecuadorian people must be allowed to determine their future through free and fair elections on 11 April without any external intervention.

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