ECUADOR: Correa Warns of “Threats and Danger”
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.
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