An Overview of Ecuador’s Presidential Elections (Special Misión Verdad Report)

By Misión Verdad  –  Feb 5, 2021

On Sunday, February 7, presidential elections will be held in Ecuador, elections that are marked by the ravages of the pandemic, sudden changes in the electoral system and the political crisis during the last presidential term.

BACKGROUND TO UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

The term of the outgoing president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, represents the background of the political crisis because it signified a break from the economic and social stability achieved with the Citizens’ Revolution (CR) launched and headed by Rafael Correa. Although Moreno was not an outsider when he came to the presidency through his predecessor, he became one when he had a radical turn soon after his mandate started, and began to persecute those who brought him to power.

This had repercussions on both domestic and foreign politics. On the one hand, this betrayal fractured the unity of the national spirit achieved by the Citizens’ Revolution, and on the other, in the geopolitical plane it transformed Ecuador into just another satellite of the United States by breaking with the tradition of regional integration and autonomous cooperation free from imperialist designs.

That Moreno had created a political image for himself as Correa’s vice president, and the fact that he became president with the Alianza País party gave the impression that there would surely be some continuity of the process that improved the quality of life of Ecuadorians. However, the story was different. His flirtation with the right wing does not remove the stigma of his political past and being a traitor does not make him a trustworthy subject.

A series of actions was adopted by Moreno, aimed at dismantling the Ecuadorian State. From the beginning of his government, he began a kind of national dialogue in which former presidents participated, including his contender in the last elections, the right-wing Guillermo Lasso. Former President Correa and Correísmo did not participate in this dialogue.

In 2017, he launched a national consultation to make changes to the Constitution. One of these reforms included the elimination of indefinite re-election, coincidentally promoted by a political actor with no possibility of being re-elected because he had neither party support nor a popular support base. Through this triumphed the consensus vision of liberal democracy that fears any continuity of an historical process through re-election, even when it is carried out through democratic elections.

But the most obvious sign of the decline of the government that was projected in all social areas was what the country experienced in October 2019, when the Executive adopted a series of austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The agreement was struck between the government and the IMF to obtain credits of more than 4.2 billion dollars.

The public sector faced the brunt of the austerity policy — salaries were reduced by up to 20%, holidays were slashed by half, and employees were to contribute one day’s salary per month to the State. But the measure that led to the social uprising that resulted in several deaths and cities in ruins was the elimination of fuel subsidies which were in force in that country for 40 years until that time. A 120% increase in diesel prices adversely affected the most disadvantaged sectors, who took to the streets with violence. Students, farmers and public employees led the protests.

RELATED CONTENT: Ecuador: ‘In this Election, We’re Choosing Between Life and Death.’

The social tension that no longer demanded the lifting of the measures, but rather the resignation of the president, could not be contained despite the strong military and police repression that left several people dead and hundreds injured. As the objective was to remove the president, Lenín Moreno moved the government to the city of Guayaquil in order to avoid the mobilizations of various sectors of the society and other people towards the capital.

To contain and repress the popular rebellion, the government applied a state of exception for 60 days, called for dialogue, and started a process of rethinking the measures as a way to redesign the counterinsurgency model typical of governments supervised by the US establishment.

As expected, the Moreno government alleged that the cause of the social unrest was not the package of neoliberal measures that strangled the population, but external agents such as the Bolivarian Revolution and Correísmo, against whom criminalization and persecution began to attempt to get remove them from the political arena.

Once again, the so-called international community, the Organization of American States and the UN human rights organizations sidestepped the situation or did not express the same forcefulness as when something similar occurs, even with less intensity, in Venezuela.

LENÍN MORENO IN THE FACE OF THE PANDEMIC: DEATH RUNS THROUGH THE STREETS

At the end of 2019 began a year marked by a global pandemic, the results of which depended on the action of governments to contain it or let it run unchecked. Wedded for some reason to the American logic of underestimating the contagiousness of the novel coronavirus, some South American countries refused to learn from the situation in Europe and adopted necessary measures too late. Ecuador was one of those countries.

This South American nation was one of the first to make headlines around the world due to the ravages of the pandemic, which was impossible to hide despite the fact that the government of Lenín Moreno did not disclose the number of deaths and infections throughout May last year.

In May 2020, Ecuador was the South American country with the second highest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19. The images of overflowing morgues and corpses in homes and streets formed a reflection of the decline of the Moreno government that had begun with the social uprising a year earlier.

Photo: The health crisis in Ecuador left bodies in streets and public places (Photo: AFP)

“The statistical capabilities, epidemiological surveillance, the information system of the Ministry of Health were overwhelmed, and they did not have the capacity to count the number of patients or the number of deaths,” José Ruales said to AFP, as cited by France24. Ruales was formerly a delegate from Ecuador for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in El Salvador.

In the absence of a health system that should have been in charge of removing the corpses from the houses, the relatives of the dead chose to abandon them on the streets in order to avoid another public health problem. Some bodies were even cremated on public highways. There were also cases in which families received other corpses from the morgues instead of those of their own people.

RELATED CONTENT: With Anti-IMF Candidate Surging in Polls, Ecuador’s Moreno Flies to DC Amid Talk of Suspending Election

The crisis in the Ecuadorian health sector was the consequence of the adjustments carried out by the government following the IMF recipe. “Beyond the macabre anecdote, Guayaquil at that time reflected the lack of foresight of political and health authorities,” opined El Periódico.

ELECTIONS MARKED BY TURBULENCE AND THE SPECTER OF NEOLIBERALISM

After two years of turbulence due to causal and supervening events, it is time to hold elections in accordance with the Ecuadorian electoral schedule. In these elections, which are being held in a pandemic context and for which there are new rules, more than 13 million Ecuadorians are eligible to vote.

In addition to electing the president and the vice president, in the first round, Ecuadorians will elect the members of their National Assembly and the Andean Parliament, comprising 137 and 5 seats respectively.

NEW RULES

The reforms promoted by Lenín Moreno enter into force for the first time for these elections. “The difference is that now the citizen will have to choose between ‘closed and blocked’ lists, that is, they will mark their support for a list, with all the candidates that it has included, as in ranked choice voting,” reported Sputnik.

The changes to the voting code were approved by the National Assembly on December 4, 2019, and they are as follows:

  • Voting crossing lists is prohibited. The mandatory voting on the grid repealed the result of question 6 of the 1997 Ecuador Referendum.
  • The change from the D’Hondt method to the Webster method for the allocation of seats for assembly members, Andean parliamentarians, provincial councilors, cantonal councilors and members of parish councils and the change to voting by closed lists, not by candidate.
  • Candidates receiving less than 4% of the votes polled in two consecutive elections must return 50% of the electoral campaign funds received by them.
  • Dignitaries running for re-election must take leave without pay. If they apply for another position, they must resign before signing up.
  • The presidential pairs must be compulsorily formed between a man and a woman starting from the presidential elections of 2025.
  • Gender parity and alternation in the heads of lists for multi-person elections, with women leading 50% of the lists and young people 25%.
  • Greater regulations for the financing and control of electoral funds, banking on the resources of political parties, creation of accounting systems that must be maintained by political organizations and interconnection between the Prosecutor’s Office, the Comptroller’s Office, the Financial and Economic Analysis Unit (UAFE) to monitor the resources.

Are these cosmetic changes in the voting system relevant at the structural level in the State?

THE CANDIDATES

The context described above serves to visualize where the balance is pointing, who has greater popular support, and a projection of the possible winner in the elections.

Another peculiarity of these elections is the number of candidates participating in the race for the presidency. In total there are 16 who ran for the office. However, only three candidates appear in the polls: Andrés Arauz (35 years old), candidate for the Centro Democrático coalition; Guillermo Lasso (65), for the CREO Alliance; and Yaku Pérez (51) for the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement.

A week before the elections, the candidate who is best profiled in the polls to reach the presidency is the young Andrés Arauz, candidate of Correísmo and the youngest to participate in a presidential election. He is followed by Guillermo Lasso, a businessman and banker linked to the extreme right who has been a candidate for the presidency on several occasions; and Yaku Pérez, linked to indigenous movements, president of the Confederation of Peoples of the Kichw Nationality, who became known for participating in demonstrations during the government of Rafael Correa.

According to France24, “Andrés Arauz registers a support between 28.64% and 15% in the polls; the conservative Guillermo Lasso is polling between 26% and 20.85%, while the indigenous candidate Yaku Pérez is at around 13%.”

According to Sputnik, “Andrés Arauz 37.4%, Guillermo Lasso 24.3%, Yaku Pérez 15.1%”.

Biased or not, all the polls project Arauz as a possible tenant of the Carondelet Palace.

Everything seems to indicate that the liberal media have reached a consensus to ignore this fact and prefer to focus on the fact that the majority of voters are still undecided, that there is an oversupply of candidates or that everything will be decided in a second round.

BRIEF PROFILES

Andrés Arauz:

  • He holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Michigan.
  • Master’s in Development Economics from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), with command of English, French and Russian.
  • Doctorate in Financial Economics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
  • At the age of 26 he was director of the Central Bank of Ecuador and at the age of 30 he became Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent, a position he held between 2015 and 2017.
  • In 2017 for a few months he was also Minister of Culture and Heritage.
  • He defines himself as a Latin Americanist and is committed to integration in the region.

Guillermo Lasso:

  • From a very young age, he was linked to the Guayaquil stock market.
  • His first company was Constructora Alfa y Omega, founded with his older brother Enrique Lasso in 1978, when he was 23 years old.
  • The businessman was appointed executive president of Banco Guayaquil in 1994. That same year he passed through the national subsidiary of Coca-Cola.
  • In 2017 a report revealed that Guillermo Lasso was associated with 49 offshore companies in tax havens and accumulated between 1999 and 2000 a wealth of 30 million dollars.
  • In 1998 he began his political career when he was appointed as Governor of the Guayas Province.
  • During the presidency of Lucio Gutiérrez he was appointed itinerant ambassador.
  • He has participated in three presidential elections and since 2014 he has assumed the role of the opposition leader to Correísmo and has expressed his rejection of the Bolivarian Revolution and any type of regional integration that is not related to the neoliberal corporate model.

Yaku Sacha Pérez

  • He has a doctorate in Jurisprudence from the Universidad Católica de Cuenca, with specializations in indigenous justice, environmental law, criminal law and criminology, and with a diploma in Hydrographic Basin and Population management.
  • He was president of the Confederation of Peoples of the Kichwa Nationality (ECUARUNARI) from 2013 to 2019.
  • President of the Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations.
  • In 2019 he was elected as Prefect of Azuay and that same year he participated in the demonstrations against the government of Lenín Moreno.
  • He is projected as an alternative option by showing lightness of bureaucracies, presenting himself as a musician who rides a bicycle and supports the indigenous cause.

DIRTY WAR AND CONTINUATION OF THE PERSECUTION AGAINST CORREÍSMO

Faced with the possible triumph of the young candidate Andrés Arauz, a smear campaign against him has been initiated through social networks and mainstream media that operate inside and outside Ecuador.

Julian Macías Tovar, a Spanish network expert, told Sputnik that a fake news campaign is being carried out “by countless media and journalists, as well as members and foundations financed from the United States through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or Atlas Network.”

The expert said that these smear campaigns are carried out through an army of fake accounts, all created for the specific purpose of promoting a negative image of Arauz.

It can also be seen how the neoliberal candidate Lasso, president of an Atlas Network foundation, is supported by these accounts. Tovar showed a map in which he has analyzed the interactions of the candidates on Twitter.

Macías discovered that 258,000 Twitter accounts with less than 5 followers follow and interact with Lasso. Something similar happened in Bolivia when the coup against Evo Morales was carried out. Thousands of accounts were created at that time, the principal objective of which was to project what had already been planned, that is, the coup d’etat.

One of the most repeated lies attributed to the young candidate is an alleged VAT hike or that he is in favor of the de-dollarization of the country, just at a delicate economic moment in the background of the pandemic.

Some print media too are participating in this war. The magazine Semana, from Colombia, tried to establish an alleged link between the Colombian armed revolutionary group ELN and the alliance that supports Arauz’s candidacy. Lenín Moreno added his own views to this complaint, describing as “extremely delicate” the alleged content of the computer of a killed guerrilla who could have had the information. This is clearly a psychological operation that seeks to mobilize undecided voters to the detriment of the Correista candidate, the ELN being an irregular group classified as a terrorist entity and a narco-trafficking organization by the governments of both Colombia and USA.

At the end of the day, it is the Ecuadorians who are going to decide who will be the next president of the country, who will encounter, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC), 6.6% unemployment and 23.4% chronic underemployment. Moreno’s legacy will be a major challenge for the winner of the elections.

On the other hand, a fall in GDP by 9.5% in 2020 leaves Ecuador in the third place of the most affected economies in South America and with low growth expectations, and a decline in the quality of life that resulted not only from the pandemic but also from the neoliberal turn of the presidential period that is ending.

 

Featured image: Correísmo aims to win the presidential election on February 7, 2021. File Photo.

(Mision Verdad)

Translation: Orinoco Tribune

OT/JRE/SC

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Mision Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution

Mision Verdad

Mision Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution