“It is not only issues of corruption that have led to these elections being called just two years into Lasso’s term. It is also the economic and social collapse currently facing Ecuador.”Fidel Narvaez, Ecuadorian Political Activist
On 20 August, Ecuador will hold special elections for the President and its Parliament after a deepening political crisis saw elections called two years before they were due.
In the past few years Ecuador has been rocked by a severe social and economic crisis that saw two national uprisings involving millions of people against neoliberal governments. The coming elections offer a chance for the Left to return to office in Ecuador.
Logan Williams spoke to Fidel Narvaez – an Ecuadorian political activist based in the UK – about the elections.
LW: What events led to these special elections being called?
FN: These early elections were triggered by an attempted impeachment against President Lasso. Lasso was about to be impeached legally and constitutionally by the Assembly (the Ecuadorean Parliament) due to issues around corruption which President Lasso and his inner circle allegedly had knowledge of.
But Lasso used a trigger within the constitution known as “Muerte Cruzada” (mutual death) to close down the Assembly and avoid his impeachment by triggering a presidential election.
It is not only issues of corruption that have led to these elections being called just two years into Lasso’s term. It is also the economic and social collapse currently facing Ecuador. Lasso’s policies: which are a continuation of those of the previous president, Lenin Moreno, have seen a drastic collapse from the high point under President Correa’s leadership when Ecuador was the second safest country in Latin America.
Due to the policies of both the Moreno and Lasso governments, Ecuador is now one of the most unsafe in the region with a crime rate up more than fivefold – largely due to the dramatic lack of investment in social programmes and the destruction of social institutions across the country. Elections as we know are fought on emotional issues, so it is not surprising that all candidates are prioritising this issue.
Alongside the issue of rising crime, we have seen a rapid growth in emigration of Ecuadorean citizens. Many are leaving due to the lack of opportunity and the lack of security within the country and this has become a massive issue for the Ecuadorean government which the incoming President and government will need to deal with quickly.
LW: What is the position of the left going into these elections?
FN: I would say that the only Left option with a real possibility of winning the election is Correismo (the movement started by former President Rafael Correa) reflected in the Citizens Revolution movement, which is the most successful Left-wing party in Ecuador’s history.
The question really within this election is whether the Citizens Revolution can win in the first round or whether it needs to go to a second round. There is no doubt that the Citizens Revolution will be the most voted for party in the first round but in order to win it will need either 50% of the vote or over 40% of the vote and a ten percent lead over its nearest opponent. The hard vote for the Citizens Revolution is around 30% according to polls so the key question is whether we can get to the 40% to avoid the situation of a second round run off which we faced in the last election (where the left was narrowly beaten).
There is another significant left-wing actor within Ecuador, the Indigenous movement represented by CONAIE which is an umbrella social organisation for the indigenous organizations which largely supports left wing policies.
These communities are often represented by Pachakutik, which is a purely political organisation for the representation of the indigenous community. However, this time CONAIE has stated that it will not put forward or support an indigenous candidate, so it is a real chance for the Citizens Revolution movement to gain the support of the indigenous community.
This opportunity has arisen from a split between elements within Pachakutik and the social movement CONAIE which has seen the previous election candidate of Yaku Perez (who came third in 2021) leave the movement altogether to run as a candidate within a new movement.
Alongside this we have for the first time, a law where electoral tickets must be gender balanced between the President and Vice President. This has led the Citizens Revolution movement to choose Luisa Gonzalez as our Presidential candidate with Andres Arauz running as Vice-President. Luisa has been a dedicated and experienced member of the party, she has served in several roles across Correa’s government and within the Assembly.
That is in contrast to other party’s candidates who have either switched party affiliations for this election or are totally inexperienced when it comes to governing. This is why I am confident after these six disastrous years the people will look for experience to tackle the issues facing Ecuador.
LW: The left in Ecuador has faced widespread persecution – can you describe what it has been through and how it has resisted this?
FN: Ecuador has seen in the past six years a clear case of lawfare. Lawfare has two arms: first is the judiciary. President Moreno managed to control the judiciary and he has changed the legislation to ensure the main political actor of the previous decade, Rafael Correa, could not seek elected office again.
They have obviously targeted Correa, but they have also targeted other key members of the Citizens Revolution such as the former Vice-President Jorge Glas who served for some years in prison due to a lack of due process. Due to this lack of impartiality from the judiciary, we have also seen the leading members of the Citizens Revolution forced into exile.
The second arm of lawfare is through media persecution which has seen constant attacks on the record of the Correa government. Throughout the Moreno and Lasso governments the private media companies, often owned by powerful economic players, have taken the line of attacking the previous Correa government’s record and attacking Correa himself.
The fightback against these constant media attacks has often relied upon small alternative outlets and Correa’s personal social media accounts (which are one of the largest social media accounts in Ecuador) in an attempt to counteract the government narrative.
The fightback has also often relied upon international support for Correa and other key figures within the Citizens Revolution governments. This can be seen quite clearly by Belgium giving Correa political asylum due to their government clearly recognising that political persecution against Correa is taking place. Alongside this, Correa and other key figures have appealed to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights but this process will take time to see results.
LW: What will it mean for the politics of the region if Ecuador moves back to the left?
It will undoubtedly reinforce the new wave of progressive governments in Latin America. Ecuador despite being a relatively small country in the region played a very important and proactive role in the previous wave of progressive governments. Quito (our capital city) became the capital of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) which is akin to Brussels being the capital of the European Union. This decision was not just due to geographical significance, it was political due to the initiatives put forward by the Ecuadorean government which helped form the basis for regional integration. It is important to understand that under the governments of the Citizens Revolution, Ecuador looked first to its own region then to Washington.
The return of Ecuador to the game is the return of one of the best players due to its willingness to partake in progressive international policies namely defending national sovereignty, defending a multipolar geopolitical world and prioritising the common Latin American project. The re-election of the Citizens Revolution is very important in that it will both improve the lives of Ecuadorean’s quickly and, will strengthen the current wave across Latin America.
- Logan Williams is an National Education Union (NEU) activist, an organiser for Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America (LFPLA) and a regular contributor to Labour Outlook.
- You can follow Logan on Twitter here; and follow the Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America on Facebook and Twitter.