Ecuador in the Twilight Zone

For those interested in the Lago Agrio case, I’m trying to publish some reactions to last week’s first-round presidential election from various points on the Ecuadoran political spectrum. The first is from Gustavo Domínguez, whom I met on my 2014 trip to Ecuador. Domínguez was a consultant to the Ecuadoran government and one of the leading government voices during the trip, along with Ambassador Nathalie Cely, Camilo Zambrano, from the Ecuadoran embassy’s political section, and Paola Carrera, the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Quality. I didn’t know it at the time, but Domínguez is also (or perhaps became) a critic of the Ecuadoran government who was jailed for a time after protesting government policy. I thought his perspective would be particularly interesting to readers because he has at various times both helped and protested against the current government. Thanks, Gustavo, for your contribution!

Although populism is always unpredictable, Rafael Correa, elected to the highest office in Ecuador on a populist left-wing platform in 2006, has since then become extremely predictable. After his election over ten years ago, with the benefit of the highest oil prices in Ecuadorean history, Correa bought his way to control of all the branches of government. The weak institutions of Ecuador surrendered at his feet while the National Assembly, the National Court, and the Constitutional Court became his daily instruments to design a model that would assure his political continuity as the grand leader.

This past Sunday’s election catches Correa at his lowest level of popularity since 2006. In a desperate, partisan move, Jorge Glas, the dauphin of Correa’s regime, was set aside in favor of the only face that could allow the governing party a chance to catch its breath and to win again the highest office.

Lenin Moreno, Correa’s former vice-president, did not run for reelection in 2013, mainly because of health issues. Jorge Glas replaced Moreno, and during his time in office, Glas has been at the center of the greatest claims of corruption against Correa’s government.

Correa has carefully prepared this past Sunday’s election in Ecuador for many years. His loyal allies in the Assembly passed the necessary law to favor his position. The Constitutional Court has blocked all of the opposition’s initiatives to dismantle unconstitutional measures taken by the Correa government. The CNE (the National Electoral Council) has openly ruled in order to favor the government’s interests. The judicial system has worked perfectly to persecute protestors and dissenters.

Although the past presidential elections have been tainted by multiple accusations of fraud all over the country maybe the most controversial issue is the announcement, by the president of the CNE, of a three-day delay in presenting the official results after initial results showed the necessity of a second-round election. This move by the CNE triggered tensions among the people, and the opposition turned out in the streets in their thousands to protest the government and defend democracy. A second round will prove devastating by the governing party’s candidate, who will clearly be ousted in light of the opposition parties’ already announced unified stance in backing the candidacy of Mr. Guillermo Lasso.

Ecuador is in the twilight zone, and if Lasso is elected, he will encounter harsh opposition in the National Assembly, since according to President Correa, his political party, “Alianza País,” will get as many as 75 of the 137 seats. Lasso will have to turn to the people and call a plebiscite to dismantle Correa’s influence over all of Ecuador’s institutions. The political future of Ecuador is very unclear. What is very clear is that the rising tensions and the risk of ungovernability will be the daily fish on Ecuadoreans’ tables.

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