“The most important thing that the British Left and Labour movement can do is to denounce the persecution of the Ecuadorian Left, the political trials against Correa and others”.
Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America activist Logan Williams speaks to former Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Guillaume Long on the political situation for the left in Ecuador following recent regional victories for the Citizens’ Revolution party.
LW: Hi Guillaume, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I was just wondering if you could briefly explain your background and previous key roles within the Left in Ecuador?
GL: I am a historian with a PhD in International Politics. I worked in the Correa government in Ecuador during several years and occupied different positions in his cabinet, including Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent, Minister of Culture and Heritage, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. I was later Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva until I resigned in opposition to the policies of the Moreno government. I am currently a senior policy analyst with the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC.
LW: Could you briefly explain the national picture for the Ecuadorean left from the election of Lenin Moreno in 2017 to present day especially including the role of ‘lawfare’ in repressing the Left?
GL: In 2017, Correa’s successor, Lenin Moreno orchestrated a dramatic U-turn which affected pretty much every area of policy: economic, social and foreign policy of course. Moreno also set out to destroy the Left and purge the Ecuadorian state of its “correistas”. He did this by holding and winning a referendum in the early days of his mandate, when he was still popular, which enabled him to control the judiciary and independent institutions to nominate new judges and various other authorities committed to purging the Left. He also seized Correa’s political party, again with judicial help. But no legitimacy to lead this party,
Moreno essentially destroyed it so it couldn’t be used by Correa’s sympathisers and supporters. The Left was then barred from creating a new political party for several years and had to compete in elections in a completely unlevel playing field.
As a result of this control of the judiciary, highly politicized court cases with no due process were held against key leftist leaders. Correa was eventually landed, on spurious charges, an 8-year jail sentence and a 25-year prohibition to play any role in politics or be a candidate to public office. Correa currently lives in Belgium where his wife is from.
Despite this persecution, the Left is still the largest political and parliamentary force in Ecuador. The Left’s candidate Andrés Arauz almost won the second round of the 2021 presidential elections against Guillermo Lasso. And the Left has been growing in strength steadily in the last few years.
LW: We have recently seen the left-wing Citizens Revolution party win elections across Ecuador in spite of this repression. How has this movement mobilised and organised itself to win these ground-breaking elections in the face of government repression?
GL: With great difficulty and tenacity. It has required recreating a party from scratch. But already this new party, the party of the Citizens’ Revolution is once again the largest and most voted in the country. In part, it was the sheer incompetence of the return of oligarchic rule in Ecuador that bolstered the Left. The memory of the years of growth (Ecuador doubled its GDP under Correa) and redistribution (under Correa, Ecuador was one of the countries that most reduced inequality in Latin America and the world, as measured by the Gini coefficient) have also created an important and enduring legacy and legitimacy for the Left.
And in the context of a return to the failed recipes of the neoliberal model, people have also rebelled. There were two very large uprisings in 2019 and 2022 against the Moreno and Lasso governments respectively. And these protests were fundamentally anti-neoliberal in their demands. There was a very near win for Arauz in a terribly unfair electoral contest in 2021. And more recently, on February 5th: this huge victory for the Left in the local elections, with Ecuador’s largest towns and provinces voting for Leftist mayors and governors (including the capital Quito and the largest economic hub Guayaquil). Voters also said NO to each one of Lasso’s 8 questions in the constitutional referendum he held that same day. This is a crushing defeat for the government.
LW: And what policy platform did these candidates stand on?
GL: The policy platform is a return to a social contract, to rule of law, democracy and a coherent national development plan. In political institutional terms, it means putting an end to political persecution, cleaning up the security forces of the penetration of organized crime, which has become a big problem in the last few years.
On the social front, it means fighting poverty and inequality, which implies more social programs and social spending. The great drive of the Left during its ten years in power (2007-2017) was its investment in education. Ecuador became particularly famous in Latin America for its impressive advances in education and higher education.
In economic terms, it means having a coherent development plan that seeks to move away from over-dependence on raw materials towards a more sophisticated, technology-intensive, diversified economy. This implies public investment, privileging certain sectors within the scope of a real long-term strategy and not always having the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to privatize everything, and selling it off cheaply to your political allies.
These were local elections, so there was less emphasis on foreign policy evidently, although the candidate for mayor of Quito who eventually won the elections has also signalled he wishes to bring back the project of Quito being “the capital” of South America. This is a reference to the fact that Quito was the headquarters of Unasur, before Moreno decided to leave the organization. The idea of course is for Quito to become a sort of Brussels of Latin American integration.
It’s important to understand that Latin American integration is an old aspiration of the political Left in Latin America, to avoid divide and rule tactics of the great powers and race-to-the-bottom competition between peripheral neighbours.
LW: How do you think the Right wing of Ecuadorean politics will react to these victories for the Citizens Revolution?
GL: They have tried to keep a united front until now, with surprising cohesiveness since 2017. The priority was to purge and even send Correa supporters into exile. But these elections have brought divisions to the fore and there is a lot of elite in-fighting taking place at the moment. The government currently faces a huge wave of corruption scandals. President Lasso’s brother-in-law has been accused of being involved in a scheme of false public contracts in the electricity sector and some of his associates are now being accused of having ties with a drug trafficking ring.
Lasso currently has around 12% approval ratings, so other right-wing political forces do not want to be associated with him. We will have to see whether the Biden administration decides to take a step back from what is becoming a very uncomfortable ally, and whether this can lead to a democratic opening in Ecuadorian society.
LW: What can the British Left and Labour movement do to support the efforts of Citizens Revolution in reclaiming the progressive transformation of Ecuadorean society started under Correa?
The most important thing that the British Left and Labour movement can do is to denounce the persecution of the Ecuadorian Left, the political trials against Correa and others. Without this persecution, the Left would have won the 2021 elections.
The British Left must also understand that what has happened to Correa is part of a broader regional strategy that we saw unleashed against Lula, for example. Lula spent 580 days in jail on bogus charges, just so he could be barred from running in 2018. It’s the same situation in Ecuador. There needs to be greater international pressure for this Lawfare to finally come to an end.
- Guillaume Long is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ecuador, you can follow him on Twitter here.
- You can follow the Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America on Facebook and twitter.
- If you support Labour Outlook’s work amplifying the voices of left movements and struggles in the UK and internationally, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon.