Political godfather of candidate Andrés Arauz, favorite to win the presidential elections in Ecuador, former President Rafael Correa says there is a resurgence of the left in the region due to “disillusionment with neoliberalism”.
Living in Belgium since he left office in 2017, and unable to return to his country for being sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption, Correa has led the Arauz campaign from a distance.
But he says he has no plans to take public office if his candidate wins the second round of elections on April 11 – he only wants to advise him on economic issues.
From Mexico, where he gives a series of lectures, the former Ecuadorian representative (2007-2017) spoke with Folha by video conference.
Sir. he felt that it was possible for Arauz to win the election in the first round. This does not happen. Are you disappointed No, I knew it could happen. Because of the current government, Ecuadorians don’t really believe in politics. This has made many undecided to prefer to vote for candidates who seem new, like Yaku Pérez [Pachakutik] and Xavier Hervas [Esquerda Democrática]. It took away a bit of voice and we will have to show up for a second round.
But even so, I think our performance was excellent. Getting more than 30% of the vote with a previously unknown candidate shows that the population gives us a vote of confidence and shows that they want our policies to come back.
Pérez and Hervas are on the left. Of the four options that are in the first places, three are on the left (the other is right winger Guillermo Lasso). Do you think this shows that there is more room for the left than for the right to develop in the country? This is not the case, as these two are not on the left. Ours is the only left-wing candidate for this election. Hervas is from the democratic left, but it is only in the name of the party. They are allied with Moreno and want a labor reform that makes contracts easier and leaves workers more vulnerable.
And Yaku Pérez is on the right, funded by the US. This candidacy was created to be a Plan B, if Lasso didn’t have the strength to win. It’s not a left-wing candidacy, it uses that image and sells itself as something modern, avant-garde, with an environmental concern, but it’s a facade. Pérez is as right-handed as Lasso.
Our more than 30% of votes are a victory, especially if we consider that they did not show my image in the campaign, nor my voice, I could not participate directly in the political propaganda of Arauz, and even so they gave us this support.
Sir. Do you think that with a possible victory for Arauz, we would be faced with a return of the left in Latin America? We never go out. They took us away. In Brazil, democracy has been stolen by those who put Lula in prison and staged a coup to oust Dilma Rousseff from power. Bolsonaro is a democratic president. But Brazil is a democracy in quotes. Because if Lula had not been arrested, he would be the president of the country. Then, in Bolivia, they carried out a coup. In Ecuador, Lenín Moreno betrayed our ideals.
I believe there is a resurgence of the left, yes, but because society has realized the failure of modern neoliberal governments.
The key point in this process occurred in 2014, with the changing conditions of the international market, with the global slowdown, when the prices of “commodities” fell. It was then that the press, which in Latin America belongs to the elite, began to say that what was happening was the failure of socialist policies. But they didn’t notice that we were facing huge crises.
In Ecuador, I fought a fierce crisis, and we still managed to do well. I left the government with a growing economy and without increasing poverty and inequality. We got around the problem. But the press in the region made all the propaganda possible to say that the left had failed and then we started to lose the elections, there was a return to neoliberalism.
The crisis, which was real, affected the elite who stopped winning as before. But we, the leaders, take care of the poor, but this has not been demonstrated.
There were different processes in each country, right? Yes, but with the common goal of favoring the elites. In Brazil, it was through a parliamentary coup; in Argentina, Macri’s victory over Peronism was achieved through the ballot box, but with the support of the Clarín group, that is, under pressure from the elite.
In Ecuador it was democratic too, but whoever was elected decided to betray us and threw our policies in the trash to adopt the most brutal neoliberalism. In Bolivia, a coup d’état. In Uruguay, the left legitimately lost in the polls, but by less than a percentage point. And, in Chile, see what’s going on with the protests. Therefore, I don’t think the left lost supporters in Latin America, but the elites used different weapons and resources to come back to power.
But companies are not stupid and they are gradually bringing us back there.
And what is the difference between these new victories and those that led M. and the other left-wing presidents to win the elections in the 2000s? I think people are now voting with more items to compare, that is, more consciously. By the 1990s, the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Cold War was over. Then came the message that Latin America had to be neoliberal because we were at the end of history.
And so the Washington Consensus imposed its commands on the region. And I ask: what consensus? We were not involved in the decision that there would be a consensus. It was a determination of the powerful. Well, there was the disaster of neoliberalism, see what happened in 2001 in Argentina, for example.
We walked in, and the region’s most prosperous decade has occurred for many years. With the growth of the GDP, the reduction of poverty, less inequalities, more participation of our countries in the world. Of course, the United States would not tolerate this. And they put pressure on local elites to carry out coups d’état, as in Brazil and Bolivia, or democratic victories, but with unjust elements, as in Argentina, where the press elected Macri.
But it didn’t work, neither Macri, nor Jeanine Añez, nor Lenín Moreno. Governments have failed in every way. And people are not stupid. They know they were better with us, so they vote for our proposals again.
Lenín Moreno blames M. for the increase in Ecuador’s debt and, consequently, for the current economic crisis. What I got out of the debt turned into well-being for the people, into public works that gave jobs. Moreno only increased his debt without opening a single street. Now we will be one of the countries with the biggest drop in GDP post-pandemic, with more than 11 points. We are also one of the countries with the worst coronavirus numbers, with fewer vaccines purchased per capita than the rest of South America.
And yet this traitor says the crisis in Ecuador is my fault. He said that for four years. People are not dumb, so they elect us again.
The 2019 protests in Ecuador left unresolved the need to reconcile sectors of society, indigenous people, with the rest of the country. What should be done? In my ten years in power, there were no indigenous protests, just a few minor protests. Because we believe that the only way to make room for the invisible, for those who suffer because they have no voice, is to give them concrete opportunities. We created schools, distributed seeds, invested incrementally for the campaign, gave grants to universities. This is how minorities are integrated.
Moreno has used force, brutal repression, left dead and injured, and this problem only worsens because the economic crisis is hitting these communities hard.
In Bolivia, the MAS (Movement for Socialism) succeeded in electing a successor to Evo Morales to have become a strong party, with a national presence. Why did Alianza País (Correa’s former party) become diluted? Because of Moreno’s betrayal, he destroyed the party. The Bolivian process was different, it took less than a year and there was a lot of effort on the part of Evo and the activists to keep their flag strong. I made a mistake in leaving power, also leaving the presidency of Alianza País with Moreno.
If he had stayed with me, today we would be a strong party like the MAS, but the party was destroyed, now we have to rebuild our political strength. But we do it with the help of the people, by their vote in our proposals.
How is your life in Belgium? I wanted it to be different. I had planned to devote myself to my family, teaching classes and writing books. I also wanted to do the Camino de Santiago de Compostela without anyone recognizing me.
But I did not succeed, because my country is currently going through a dictatorship, it is promoting legal persecution against me. Every day I wake up is a new complaint against which I must defend myself. Political activity has also become necessary to reclaim our space and democratically remove this traitor from power.
What is your version of the Odebrecht scandal in Ecuador [a construtora brasileira admitiu ter pago US$ 33 milhões em subornos e em caixa dois no país]? I don’t know anyone in Odebrecht. This money never came to me or to anyone who worked with me. If strangers want to find a culprit, show them the corpse first. There are former members of my government arrested over the Odebrecht affair without evidence, there has never been any evidence of where this money is going, at least by anyone in my government.
The persecution of corruption in Ecuador has become a resource for political persecution, and no perpetrator of corruption has, in fact, been arrested or convicted like me.
What is your greatest wish, if you could return to Ecuador today? Kiss my 86-year-old mother who is confined to her house due to the pandemic.
Rafael Correa, 57 years old
An economist, he was President of Ecuador between 2007 and 2017. Since he left power, he has lived in Belgium and cannot return to his country for having been sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption. In 2018, he left the party he founded and led, Alianza País, due to a dispute with his successor, Lenín Moreno. He is the political godfather of the current presidential candidate, Andrés Arauz.