ECUADORIAN President Rafael Correa has condemned agreements signed by right-wing forces in his country and those of Bolivia in an attempt to maintain neoliberal structures and traditional policies in these nations – and including the possibility of an assassination attempt on his person – and left-wing parties, social and indigenous movements who are fighting for a new constitution are remaining on the alert.
The current situation in Ecuador is highly tense in terms of the structural reform plans that are being promoted by Correa, a 43-year old economist with an anti-neoliberal position, in tune with the formulas of the progressive currents that are beginning to establish themselves in Latin America: regional integration and the elimination of poverty.
The organization of the reforms, discussions, and preliminary agreements already adopted by the Constituent Assembly, which should conclude its work by next May 24 and the results of which will be subjected to a popular referendum possibly two months later, have accelerated the launch of anti-government plans, the primary public expression being an opposition march that was overwhelmed by thousands of followers of the Alianza País Party of the renovating administration.
As is already known, the traditional parties were crushed by the leftist Alianza País coalition, led by Correa, which won the presidential elections and then in the referendum for the installation of the Constituent Assembly, meaning that the first year of the young economist’s government passed in relative tranquility with respect to his plans, despite knowing that at any given moment the discredited opposition would begin to show its talons.
The movement against the transformations planned by the Quito administration is being led by the Social Christian mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot who, during the mid-January demonstration, promised the launch of national actions against the new constitution so that the “No” vote will prevail at the ballot boxes when the referendum takes place.
Nebot, who has lost the presidential elections on two occasions and remained in the shadows in 2007, has a strong political base in Guayaquil where powerful oligarchs are located.
Taking part in his regular Saturday radio show, 48 hours before the opposition march, the president pointed out that “the oligarchy is going to make it impossible for everything to stay the same and return to Congress, in order to defeat the laws passed by the Assembly, and to continue with privatized oil.”
On January, the first anniversary of his mandate, Correa condemned right-wing opposition groups in Ecuador and Bolivia, commenting that “agreements have been signed between the oligarchy in Guayaquil and Santa Cruz (Bolivia) to transform these regions (the ones with the greatest economic potential) into autonomies which, in real terms, is separatism.”
“They (he said, referring to oligarchic groups in the two countries) are using the separatist projects to torpedo government plans and destabilize us. Behind the discontent of the most prosperous cities in the two countries “there is a regional strategy to prevent the progressive governments from making changes.” The right-wing movements of the two nations are very similar: they speak Spanish but they think in English and have dominated the economy and politics for a long time. They are extremely opulent, semi-ignorant and elitist, and they are mocking the socialism of the 21st century,” he affirmed.
In the case of Ecuador, according to the president, the right-wing plan is aimed at ensuring that the government loses the referendum in which the people will give the green light to the new constitution drawn up by the Constituent Assembly, which has a government majority and is installed in the city of Monticristi.
What has emerged in Ecuador (as well as in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua) is the ideological struggle between two political views with respect to the future of the region: the first of which has declared the new socialism of the 21st century with its national characteristics; and the other which, despite its failure, still continues to defend neoliberalism and representative democracy.
On a number of occasions, the president has exposed the existence of plans to assassinate him. “I have received death threats,” for which reason he urged the people to remain united in order to defeat those he described as “anti-patriotic”. In the work that is underway, “there are threats and dangers” and for this reason, he warned about the latest actions against him.
While Nebot has refused Correa’s invitation to stand in the next presidential elections that might well take place after the referendum on the new national constitution, on January 26 the Ecuadorian government warned foreign oil companies that if they refuse to modify their current contracts, their investments will be returned and the state will assume control of the oil fields they are currently exploiting. “We are not tricking anyone; we will return their millions and they can go away smiling,” said the president, who is enjoying the popular support of more than 75% of the Ecuadorian population, one of the poorest in Latin America. Analysts and political scientists agree that 2008 looks set to be a difficult year for the government of Ecuador.
Havana. January 31, 2008
A third, defining year
BY NIDIA DIAZ —Special for Granma International—
EVO Morales and his party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), have just breached the threshold that places them in their third year of government, a crucial, defining moment, during which the revolutionary process for the re-founding of Bolivia is in play.
In the past 25 years, no Bolivian president has ever reached the Quemado Palace the way Evo Morales did, with the support of 57% of the electorate, a figure that rose to more than 80% when, on May 1, 2006, he announced the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the recuperation of national sovereignty over the country’s natural resources. At this point in its administration, the MAS government is facing the unavoidable challenge of winning the wrestling match with the opposition oligarchy as the only way to move forward with the country’s much-needed transformation.
Morales and his movement also need to demonstrate the obvious: that the struggle in Bolivia is not on racial lines, as the corporate media insists, but is rather a class struggle; in other words, a battle between the rich and the poor, between the bourgeoisie and its political representatives, sidelined from power, and the people, who are demanding social justice and inclusion as citizens of the nation.
It is true that this battle cannot ignore the racist positions – so nakedly exposed on the Bolivian political scene – of those who believe themselves superior and the heirs to the old colonial regime, whose mission for centuries was the subjugation and exploitation of the indigenous population, of which president Morales is a part. Such travesties do not conform to the reality that the MAS government, an expression of the popular will, is moving the country forward and has resolved in just two years some of the most important demands of the last 30 years.
First was the nationalization of hydrocarbons. At that time, the oligarchy proclaimed that the transnational oil companies operating in the country would never accept the renegotiation of their contracts on the terms set out by the government. They were sure that the president would have to postpone the renegotiations and that the foreign oil companies were sure to pull out of Bolivia.
That didn’t happen, neither the one nor the other. The new contracts were accepted, at the last minute, right before their expiration. Bolivia recovered the profits that neoliberal governments had allowed to escape for years for social programs. Since then, the hydrocarbon income has grown from $200 million to nearly $2 billion.
Also recovered by the state were four hugely important enterprises: Bolivian Oil and Gas (YPFB), the Vinto metallurgical company, the Huanuni mining company and the Illimani Waters enterprise.nstitute, Bolivian foreign trade has grown to its highest level in history, “thus increasing its coefficient of trade openness to an unprecedented level of 80%.”
Bolivian exports have reached a new record at close to $4.3 billion, thanks to natural gas and minerals.
The government has paid special attention to the provision of credits for small businesses with the goal of promoting production in sectors such as food, metallurgy, precious metal working, plastic, leather and forestry, among others. And, looking to continued progress, the government this year has planned to allocate nearly $3 billion to public and private investment, as a result of which a 5.7% increase in the gross domestic product is expected.
Within the social arena, the Juancito Pinto school subsidy has been introduced to guarantee children’s attendance and also approved was the Dignity bonus, which provides a retirement pension to all Bolivians over the age of 60. The latter being a conquest that partially repays the tremendous social and moral debt owed to those who have been exploited and ignored despite their contribution to society.
Thanks to the solidarity of the Cuban revolution and the Venezuelan Bolivarian government, 109 municipalities in the country have been declared free of illiteracy. As of last month, Operation Miracle had restored the sight of some 187,000 Bolivians and 900 medical clinics had been established, 30 of them mobile, in order to serve remote rural areas. Not to mention the 20 hospitals already opened with the help of Cuba, whose doctors and health professionals have reached locations where health care services have never before been made available.
The establishment of the Constituent Assembly and the approval of the new proposed constitution, despite hostile media campaigns and sabotage attacks, which left a number of dead, has been one of the revolution’s major conquests in Bolivia. The constitution crafted by the assembly will be submitted to a popular vote this year.
The tangible accomplishments of the Evo Morales government are innumerable and it is precisely because of these achievements that the oligarchy cannot forgive him and is maintaining its strong opposition on the national political scene, obstructing every step forward taken to benefit the people.
The national talks convened by Morales are currently at a standstill.
He has decided to submit his presidency and the mandates of department governors to a popular recall referendum so that it is the sovereign will of the people that settles this struggle in which a minority refuses to give up its privileges in the face of the vast majority who, for the first time, can discern a ray of hope in the future. One more reason to follow closely each and every event that takes place during this defining third year of the Evo Morales MAS government.