ANALYSIS ON ECUADOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS (Feb 2013)
According to the official propaganda of Rafael Correa’s regime the fate of democracy in Ecuador is already written, and there is nothing that the opposition leaders can do to stop the authoritarian leader from continuing in power for another four year term, following the steps of his Mentor and ally Hugo Chavez who stayed in power for 14 years in Venezuela before getting ill.
Regarding the elections to the assembly, the government is also convinced that Correa´ s infallibility will assure their candidates a place in the legislative branch.
The populist regime, bases its anticipated victory on polls that show a lead of 50-60% of vote intention in favor of Correa, followed by Guillermo Lasso and Lucio Gutierrez with less than 18 %. From their perspective, this strong support is the result of the “citizen revolution” achievements: big highways, populist subsidies for the poor, as well as an increase in health and education, thanks to the oil revenues and the market´s high prices.
The present government feels confident that within less than two weeks before the elections, it should be impossible for any of the candidates behind Correa to reduce the 40 % difference to less than 10% in order to force a second ballot runoff. The populist regime assumes that a big part of the population under the line of poverty (around 30% according to the $2.4 a day Latin American standard measurement of poverty) will vote for them.
Fortunately defying the authoritarian regime´s triumphant attitude, there are other polls and points of view with a different perspective of the current situation, presented mainly by independent institutions, the media and opposition leaders.
According to those polls Correa has around 35-39% of vote intention, with a declining tendency, followed by Lasso and Gutierrez with more than 20%. Other sources show a moderate increase of vote intention in favor of Alberto Acosta and Mauricio Rodas. All the polls consider also that there are a significant 30% of undecided voters that would vote against Correa.
The information about the fall of Correa´s popularity coincides with a historical declining trend registered in previous elections, (from 80% in 2007 to 45% in 2011, and to 39% in 2013) as it was presented in a recent research poll and document made public by Arcop, a Mexican specialized organization. Another interesting fact is that at the 2011 referendum, Correa´s government only got around 45% of the vote, instead of the 70% announced by the polls and a failed exit poll.
The slow but steady decline of Correa´s popularity is considered a consequence of the government´s failure to deal with the four main priorities and concerns for the average Ecuadorian: The rise of crime and insecurity, the unemployment and cost of living, the unpunished scandals of corruption produced by government officials, Correa´s regime authoritarianism.
Despite the differences between the numbers presented by the polls (something that has produced a loss of confidence in them) there are some other facts from the recent past that should be taken into account for an objective analysis of the coming elections, where the mentioned priorities play a significant roll.
Thus, is interesting to notice that since 2011 there have been an important increase in the crime rate, the cost of living, the corruption cases and human right violations. The new corruption scandals involve Rafael Correa´s close cabinet members: Ricardo Patiño, with the case of the “narco diplomatic pouch” sent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Quito to Italy; the case of Pedro Delgado, cousin of Correa and former President of the Central Bank, who declared that he had forged his title of economist. The very next day after his announcement Pedro Delgado flew to Miami where he is asking for political asylum. Opposition leaders have denounced that he has been involved in many financial wrongdoings and that he has opened personal accounts worth millions of dollars in the Bahamas and Hong Kong, something that could compromise his cousin Rafael.
Delgado, who was openly defended by Rafael Correa, till the last minute before his runaway, is also under investigation for his financials ties with Iran´s government.
The case of Jorge Glass, former Minister of Strategic Sectors, and candidate to the Vice-presidency with Rafael Correa. Jorge Glass is the son of a man accused of raping a 14 year old girl who last year gave birth a baby, and who flew out of the country thanks to the “blind eye” of the Correa´s justice. Jorge Glass has been also accused by the opposition of plagiarizing (from an internet blog called “rincón del vago”) the theoretical frame of his telecommunication engineer´s thesis, something that he admits but considers irrelevant for his particular academic work. There is also the case of the brothers Vinicio and Fernando Alvarado, very close friends of Correa, in charge of the regime´s propaganda. They have also been accused of plagiarizing of a doctorate thesis, made by the four members of their family including their father and mother, and of getting a Doctorate title from the “ National University of Loja” an institution that was not authorized for it. The case of Camilo Samán, Correa´s friend and President of the CFN (National Finance Corporation), accused of embezzlement in the selling of a confiscated sugar mill “Ingenio Ecudos” and of illegal financial operations made by the Ecuadorian bank “Pacific National Bank” in Miami, under his chairmanship. The case of Wilson Pastor, Minister of Natural Resources, accused of using a false title and of negotiating oil contracts with Chinese companies against Ecuador´s economic interest.
These are only a few cases of a long list of new scandals, not to mention the “old ones” like the 2006 campaign contributions from the FARC, the “Patiño videos”, the 80 million lawsuit against “El Universo” and the case of Correa´s lawyer pen drive with the written sentence handed to the judge, the Correa´ s brother multimillion-dollars contracts, among other scandals.
Many analysts believe that as a result of all this scandals people have started to question what the government´s real intentions are and seem skeptical about the traditional slogan that made Correa´ s victory possible in 2006 and 2009, when he promised a government of “clean hands, bright minds and warm hearts”. The people ´s reaction to the government lies and moral double standard explains why during this presidential campaign Correa´s advertisement don’t even mention that infamous slogan. There is also the presumption that people has started to disregard the “work” and investment made by the government in health and education because of it´s evident inefficiency. People´s disappointment looks inevitable when despite the political propaganda, the new buildings and expensive equipment, the quality of health and education provided by the state is the same and some times even worse than before.
In regard to the scandals of the “titles” of Correa´s close aids, they are also raising frustration and rage among ordinary people who reject the shameless support and protection that Correa provides them despite the existing evidence.
The “titles” fiasco represents for most Ecuadorians a terrible disenchantment with a government that for more than 6 years has boasted and portrayed itself as the highest educated in Ecuadorian history in a country where most people don’t even have a high school degree. Correa used the alleged “moral and intellectual stature” of his cabinet to introduce a new admission system to the university, more rigid and strict that is considered by most students as unfair and elitist, in favor of the rich and private school students. This new system also affects most teachers, poorly paid and with a low level of education, who now should obtain either a masters or PHD title in order to keep their academic jobs, but with no financial resources to do it.
In the area of human rights, the government has continued his policy of prosecution of journalists, independent media, opposition leaders and social activists, something that has deserved the outright rejection of the population. The most recent case of brutal repression was the detention and imprisonment of ten young activists, members of the leftist opposition party MPD (a government former ally) accused of “terrorism”. The young political activist were detained in March 2012 after a meeting were they were discussing some of the government policies. At the meeting the police found only notebooks, newspapers, diaries and posters of “Che Guevara”, and so far the government has not been able to present a single proof to sustain its accusations. The fear to the government repression is today a spread feeling even among ordinary citizens without any political affiliation. There are many cases of ordinary people who have been arrested just for “not saluting respectfully” the President when he was passing by with hiss military guard.
There is another important event that marks a difference in this new election. The fact that the leaders of the left and the social movements that supported Correa´s election in 2006 and 2009, today accuse him of treason and compete against the regime with their own candidate. After the elections of 2009 the left movements started to take distance from “Alianza país”, to the point that they expressed their discomfort at the 2011 referendum with the slogan “this time no Mr President”. In 2012 they marched into Quito calling out the slogan “for the water and the life” against the “extractive model of development” conducted by a fascist and technocratic regime and announced the creation of the “Plurinational Unity of the Left”.
Regarding people´s participation in the campaign, according to the press and news coverage of the electorate meetings and political demonstrations, this seems to be a very apathetic, kind of lethargic political campaign, and with very few followers. A situation that has been disturbed only by a tragic event occurred in one of Correa´ s meetings when a man, presumably drunk and under the effects of some drug, after a quarrel with other followers, started to stab people with a knife, killing two persons and injuring other three.
Most observers believe that the apathy of the Ecuadorian people could be explained by a feeling of general fear, that impede them to express their feelings and political sympathies under an authoritarian and repressive regime. Many also consider that this social phenomenon could explain the differences between the polls that could hide an unexpected vote against the regime and bring surprising results on February 17.
Under this circumstances for most Ecuadorians the coming elections represent an opportunity to regain freedom and democracy; a test in which they will have to proof that their feelings toward freedom and democracy are stronger than the false promises of an authoritarian and antidemocratic regime.
At this moment, opposition leaders are playing an important role by trying to prevent the possibility of fraud, a last minute resort from a government with an authoritarian record and obsession for power, and that has total control of the Electoral Council, whose members have been appointed by Correa´s government.