“This is a government of narco-bankers”—the economist and former candidate for the presidency of Ecuador Andrés Arauz does not mince words when it comes to defining the government of banker Guillermo Lasso, whose administration is experiencing a deep crisis due to allegations of corruption and its resounding defeat in the elections and referendum held on February 5.
Arauz lost in the second round of the 2020 elections to Lasso, who was already facing backlash for his links to tax havens, first publicized by Página 12 in 2015. An economist and an expert in the offshore tax havens that are bleeding Latin America dry, Arauz has given us his take on the latest scandal that has left behind a trail of resignations from high-ranking members of the government and those close to the president.
Marcelo Justo (MJ): Why do you call the government of Guillermo Lasso a government of narco-bankers?
Andrés Arauz: Let’s start with the revelations published by media outlets, which are allied to Lasso himself, that his brother-in-law Danilo Carrera, chairman of the Guayaquil bank, the second or third [largest] bank in Ecuador, had ties to sectors of the Albanian mafia, a criminal drug organization in Ecuador, which chose people within Ecuador’s public companies and ministries. The Prosecutor’s Office even raided the presidential palace itself looking for evidence of this corruption and called the case the “encuentro” [meeting place] case, alluding to Guillermo Lasso’s second-round election slogan: the “encuentro” government. The Lasso family, public officials, financial institutions, mafias, and criminals are all involved here. The Prosecutor’s Office has decided to reopen the case, which was closed by Lasso himself two years ago, and the parliament is also investigating. This creates the possibility of the dismissal of Guillermo Lasso from the presidency of the republic. Why am I talking about a government of narco-bankers? Because, contrary to Lasso’s narrative that he wanted to convince Ecuador that the entire country was full of drug traffickers, it turns out that those who were full of drug traffickers were those related to the financial institution he owned. The country has civil servants who, for the most part, are honest teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen, and soldiers. The problem is not the people. The problem is that we are led by a banker president linked to these organized mafias.
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(MJ): In the case of Guillermo Lasso, Página 12 made two high-profile complaints about his network of offshore interests in the 2015 and 2019 elections. Can you refresh us a bit about all those links between the president and tax havens?
Andrés Arauz: Lasso, like a good part of the Latin American financial elites, has hidden his fortunes abroad: in the Cayman Islands, in Panama, in Florida’s Broward and Miami-Dade counties, in South Dakota trusts, in the British Virgin Islands. But in addition to all this, Lasso owns a bank in Panama, the Banisi bank, which contributes to capital flight of resources and tax evasion. This bank was created in Panama along with another bank that Lasso founded on the island of Montserrat to evade Ecuadorian regulations and to be able to both grant credit and capture deposits from sectors of Ecuador without having to comply with Ecuadorian legislation. On Lasso’s official trips abroad, and particularly to the United States, he is usually accompanied by Danilo Carrera. This is his brother-in-law, but he is also the president of the Banco de Guayaquil board of directors, a person extremely trusted by Lasso. It makes no sense for a private bank official to be on an official Ecuadorian government trip, but it turns out that this banker, Danilo Carrera, also has another network of offshore companies abroad. Carrera is a close friend of a character named Rubén Chérez who has already been sentenced in Ecuador for drug trafficking and operated a mafia network for the sale of public posts with ties to what is called the Albanian mafia, a transnational criminal organization that has a leading role in the export of drugs from South America to Europe. Lasso, his family and those close to him make up this government of narco-bankers. I repeat: the Ecuadorian people have nothing to do with this.
(MJ): All this is happening at a time of extreme political weakness after their catastrophic defeat in February both in the [current] elections for local and provincial authorities and in the referendum. The presidential elections are only in 2025. Can you survive that long when the country is also mired in a serious economic and social crisis?
Andrés Arauz: Unfortunately, Lasso can survive two more years with the support of the mainstream media, the police, the armed forces, and the influence of the United States embassy, which recently allocated a budget of $100 million to the USAID transition initiatives office to try to sustain his government by influencing the media, social organizations, and political parties, seeking to divide and conquer. The one who will not be able to survive two more years is the Ecuadorian people, and the best demonstration of this is the homicide rate in the country, the highest in history, and the migration rate, that is, the rate of departure of Ecuadorians. The exodus of Ecuadorians in this year 2023 has exceeded the exodus of other sister countries in the region that are facing an economic blockade, financial sanctions, and attacks of all kinds. The greatest drama is experienced in the Darien jungle between Colombia and Panama where Ecuadorians are crossing on foot in their intention to seek an opportunity, an illusion of the future. We will have to see if the national political class and the Ecuadorian judicial system respond to the popular mandate of February 5, when the people forcefully spoke out against the Lasso government, and we can have some oxygen, some refreshment in the political leadership in Ecuador. We have a chronic recession, an unemployment crisis, a public health crisis, which has led to increases in the morbidity and mortality rate, a crisis of the citizen security system. Lasso has dedicated himself to political persecution, taking advantage of the management of the security apparatus instead of fighting against the problems that Ecuadorians are suffering, ranging from hit men to murder, robbery, extortion, or what in Ecuador we call vaccination, which is when small businesses are extorted to pay them money and thus avoid being attacked by criminal organizations.
(MJ): Now Lasso was the main person responsible for the banking crisis of the 90s that led to that straitjacket that is dollarization for the Ecuadorian economy. And yet, when the 2021 elections came, he was democratically elected. It would seem that something is failing in Ecuadorian society.
Andrés Arauz: Our memories did not work in the face of an immense power against us: the media, economic, and historical forces. There were also mistakes on our part. Because in the last elections, the invalid vote was 17%. We must amend the relationship with this sector of voters, which are the indigenous sectors—CONAIE or Pachakutik—but also with other sectors. I think that with the pandemic, things have changed a lot. If indeed the assembly manages to remove Lasso, which would be the institutional way to do it, enormous possibilities would open up at a time when the region is once again standing up and making proposals that may lead towards integration and the great homeland.
(Página 12) by Marcelo Justo
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
slorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/slorinoco/December 8, 2022
slorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/slorinoco/November 24, 2022
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