Ecuador: Election victory for the poor

leninmoreno

In the second round of the Ecuadorian presidential elections on 4 April, Lenín Boltaire Moreno (PAIS Alliance) was elected president. President Correa’s vice president Jorge Glas ran as his deputy. Moreno, 64, was Correa’s deputy between 2007 and 2013. Moreno won with 51.16% of the vote, while right-wing opponent Guillermo Lasso (Creating Opportunities), former ex-head of the Banco de Guayaquil, received 48.84% – a difference of 229,396 votes. The challenge for Moreno now is to maintain the momentum of PAIS Alliance’s successful ‘Citizen’s Revolution’.

In the General Election of 19 February PAIS Alliance maintained a legislative majority of 11 seats despite losing 26 seats in the 137 seat Chamber. It had also won a referendum prohibiting public servants from opening bank accounts in tax havens. This gives officials one year to transfer their assets. A second presidential vote was required because Moreno’s vote was just below the 40% threshold necessary to win outright in the first round, despite a 10% lead.

Lasso had promised to throw WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of Ecuador’s London embassy. He claimed there were attempts at fraud before the final vote was announced and, provoked by his supporters, skirmishes broke out outside the electoral authority headquarters. Lasso could provide no evidence, though 248 votes from a rural area may have been incorrectly allotted. Lasso and former congress member Cinthya Viteri of the Social Christian Party, who supported Lasso in the second round, are focused on erasing from Ecuador every trace of Correa’s ‘Citizen’s Revolution’, accusing Correa of repressing freedom of expression. Three exit polls falsely suggested Lasso had won and he prematurely declared himself the winner. As the votes were counted he declared: ‘I’m warning the world that in Ecuador procedures are being violated, and they’re trying to swear in an illegitimate government.’ Lasso presented his complaint to the Organization of American States, which has an observation mission in Ecuador. It discounted his accusations and PAIS Alliance has confidently agreed to the recount of votes. Right-wing politics in Ecuador, backed by imperialism, is a mass of lies, evasions, folly and hatred.

Economic problems

Until 2015 Correa’s strategy pushed economic growth at an average of 4.38%, lowering poverty, which fell by 12.5% between 2006 and 2015, and reducing inequality. Ecuadorians demand accessible health care, universal public education and poverty alleviation. Moreno will continue Correa’s social programmes. A budget deficit of possibly some 5% of GDP poses a challenge to this. The fall in the price of oil means slower growth, even a fall in GDP and so a growing debt to GDP ratio. Job creation in a country dependent on exports of oil, bananas and shrimp poses another challenge. The country’s currency is the US dollar and its high value has hit exports.

Despite the fact that the abolition of capitalism is hardly on Mr Moreno’s agenda, he will face attacks from the wealthy and middle-class who will opportunistically support environmental and indigenous groups’ opposition to government actions in any area. He will have to deal with the corruption scandal at state-run oil company PetroEcuador, which is related to the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht’s bribery campaign.

Morena is paraplegic as a result of being shot in the back in 1998 and becomes the world’s only wheelchair-using head of state. During his campaign, he spoke of ‘de-Correafication’, by which he meant de-personalising the political process to deflate the nasty personal attacks on Moreno, not the removal of the ‘Citizen’s Revolution’ programme, as the western press has inferred.

In the final weeks of his campaign, Moreno presented his Plan for Life, which emphasised fighting poverty and strengthening protections for vulnerable populations such as children, the homeless, and elderly people.

Alvaro Michaels

Ecuador: Violent reaction against income redistribution

Never before in the history of Ecuador has the propertied elite had to concede so much to the demands of the poor. Public sector spending increased from 21% of GDP in 2006 to 44% in 2013. This is part of the Citizens’ Revolution led by President Correa and the Alianza PAIS. Spending on people has infuriated the wealthy and they want to remove the government and seize back their loot. They control most of the media and attack the government’s programme in every way, including violent demonstrations.

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On 1 June 2015, Correa announced two new tax bills. One, the Wealth Redistribution Law – a progressive inheritance tax affecting the richest 2% of Ecuadorians – starts with a 2.5% tax on homes costing between $35,400 and $100,000. The highest marginal rate would be 47.5% for the family but up to 77.5% for other beneficiaries. The second bill is a real estate capital gains tax of 75%. They undermine the power of 100 elite families who have dominated Ecuador for centuries. Wealthy landowners and property developers are furious, headed by the Mayors of Quito and Guayaquil, Mauricio Rodas and millionaire banker Jaime Nebot respectively, plus the Prefect of Azuay, Paul Carrasco.

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President Rafael Correa in London, 28 Oct 2009

On 17 February, the Ecuadorian people overwhelmingly re-elected Rafael Correa as their president. Correa’s governing PAIS alliance took some 70% the 137 seats in the National Assembly, including six for overseas workers and three of the country’s five Andean Parliament seats Correa received 51.17% of the total vote for president, 6% more than in 2009. It was more than twice that of the runner-up, banker Guillermo Lasso (23.3%), a neo-liberal figure deeply involved in the chaos and corruption of previous governments.

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Julian Assange

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