By Pablo Vivanco – April 9, 2020
Weaponizing courts against political opponents has become the modus operandi of the right-wing across Latin America. By sentencing Ecuador’s ex-President Correa, Moreno and his allies sought to take him out of contention.
Ecuador’s authorities may have struggled to deal with the rotting corpses of the Covid-19 dead in the streets of Guayaquil, but they have proven considerably more adept at burying the living.
Earlier this week, Ecuador’s Supreme Court found ex-President Rafael Correa guilty in absentia on corruption and bribery charges.
Correa has been residing in his wife’s native Belgium since passing the baton to his former Vice President Lenin Moreno, who quickly proceeded to carry out a witch-hunt against Correa and his loyalists.
The former president was sentenced along with 17 others, including his Vice President Jorge Glas, to serve eight years in prison. The guilty verdict means Correa cannot hold office for 25 years, and thus, will be ineligible to run in next year’s election.
In the last three years,the Ecuadorian government and its right-wing allies have thrown no less than 17 separate charges against Correa, ranging from ‘hate’ to ‘crimes against humanity’ in connection with the September 2010 coup attempt which opponents claim Correa orchestrated against himself.
Moreno has tried everything to put Correa in a cell beside his former VP, even attempting to have an Interpol alert issued so as to trigger an extradition process. The international policing body rejected the claim because as Correa himself says, the accusations are nonsense.
As for the current charges, they include claims of having illegally financed the 2016 elections – the same elections that Moreno won with Correa’s support. The fact that Correa and others are fingered while Moreno walks, is surely a sign that these charges are also nonsense.
For Moreno and the country’s right-wing, the mission has always been to ensure that the highly electable Correa is taken out of contention for the 2021 elections. He remains the most loved – and thereby hated – politician in the country and often mused about returning to confront his adversaries at the polls, which is why Moreno and his allies have looked to villainize him at every turn, even blaming him for their own unpopular measures such as public spending cuts and elimination of subsidies. Correa may attempt a return anyways, but for now, said the focus should be on the country’s Covid-19 crisis.
This has been the modus operandi of the right-wing across Latin America since their fortunes began to turn in 2015 with the election of Mauricio Macri in Argentina after being shut out of office for over a decade in much of the region. The Argentine government under millionaire Macri weaponized the courts against his main opponent, former President Cristina Fernandez, who also had corruption charges and even fantastical murder allegations lobbed at her.
None of these held, and Fernandez returned to the South American country’s executive, this time as vice president.
Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva was made ineligible for the 2018 election because of the corruption charges that eventually landed him in jail for one and a half years. Lula was freed in November of 2019, and investigations since then revealed that the judge who led the campaign against him colluded with prosecutors. Corruption allegations also brought down his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, who was dethroned as president by her adversaries in a shamelessly orchestrated congressional plot in 2016.
In post-coup Bolivia, the de facto government of Jeanine Anez has not only used the courts to prevent ousted President Evo Morales and other members of his party from running for office, but also to allow her and her colleagues to run the country despite having absolutely no mandate.
Through politically driven machinations, right-wing groups have entrenched themselves into the highest offices by entangling their opponents with the laws they manipulate and the institutions they control and wield.
None of this is coincidence – this is the playbook being carried out by like-minded groups in different countries to retain power at all costs and protect their interests.
Nor is this the first time the right-wing has colluded to stamp out their left-wing rivals in the region. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the intelligence services of the military regimes in practically all of South America shared information and coordinated actions to neutralize left-wing activists and others. The CIA-supported Operation Condor is credited with playing a central role in maintaining regimes responsible for the cumulative slaughter of some 80,000 people, including leftist leaders.
For decades, the ruling class in Latin America has used the repressive apparatus of the state against any dissent, against any of the leaders that sought to organize it. Whereas before this in large part meant the police, the armed forces and even secret services, today, this means the courts and the jails.
The means may be different, but the ends are the same. The players, including parties representing the rich, the church, mainstream media along with Washington and the institutions tied to it, are also largely unchanged.
Correa and others have likened these new tactics by the right against the left to Operation Condor, calling it Lawfare. Whatever you wish to call it, it remains the tried, tested and true method for the ruling class to exert and maintain its power – state repression.
In the absence of solid institutions to maintain even a semblance of rule of law – something which the ‘progressive’ governments like Correa’s attempted to build before they were quickly dismantled – Latin America’s right-wing has historically shown no hesitation when it comes to exercising this power, even if it meant an astronomical body count. This is precisely because they don’t fear being held to account.
But Macri himself showed, it’s this arrogance – combined with their predictable set of policies that inevitably lead to increased poverty and discontent – that is the downfall of the right-wing in the region.
Whether Correa is in the picture or not, Moreno and his ilk appear to be headed in the same direction.
Featured image: Supporters of the Alfarista Revolution Movement protest against the Government of the President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, and showed their support to former President Rafael Correa, Quito, Ecuador, Thursday July 5, 2018 © Global Look Press / Franklin Jacome