[OP-ED]: In Ecuador, 21st century socialism is alive and well
Yes, I know, telling someone “I told you so” is not the best of manners. But after Lenín Moreno was elected president of Ecuador this week, I cannot help myself: I told you so, Ecuadorans are not fools.
So much so, that this tiny nation, all by itself, brought to a screeching halt Latin America’s disastrous shift to the right that, after progressive governments stumbled in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, “experts” had already certified as inevitable and unstoppable.
Yet, Moreno, a 64-year-old paraplegic who, from 2007 to 2013, was president Rafael Correa’s second in command, defeated former banker Guillermo Lasso, the Ecuadoran oligarchy’s great hope for recapturing power after 10 years of progressive policies under the popular and charismatic Correa.
“I will be the president of everyone, but especially the poor,” Moreno, who has been wheelchair-bound since he was shot by robbers in 1998, said after his victory.
Without a doubt, Correa, who was 43 when he became president for the first time in 2007, will be a tough act to follow. An economist trained in the U.S. and Belgium, he was able to bring stability to his country for the first time in years, invested oil wealth in important infrastructure works and social programs that lifted hundreds of thousands of his compatriots out of poverty.
Yet, Ecuador’s economy suffered due to a downturn in oil prices, and the 2016 massive earthquake that killed hundreds of people, injured thousands more and left in its wake terrible destruction. The opposition tried to use the country’s tragedy for electoral gain, blaming Correa and his Alianza País party for the increase in poverty.
But Lasso, who proposed to cut social spending and reduce taxes for the rich and for businesses, could not bamboozle the majority of Ecuadorans who had not forgotten he was part of president Jamil Mahuad’s government.
Mahuad presided over a banking crisis known as the “bank holiday” that plunged the country into unspeakable misery and forced 1.5 million people to leave for Europe and the U.S. seeking a way to survive. The financial collapse destroyed the sucre, the national currency, and left Ecuador deep in debt, which Correa would later declare immoral and refuse to pay.
In this election, Ecuadorans were not willing to entrust the future of their country to someone like Lasso, one of the very same people who had impoverished them while making themselves even richer at their expense.
Not surprisingly, Lasso is disputing the results after having declared himself the winner, even though international observers have made clear the election was legitimate and there was no sign of fraud. The OAS and an increasing number of governments like Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela have recognized the legitimate triumph of Moreno and Alianza País and their Citizenship Revolution. Washington hasn’t pronounced itself yet.
“I leave the country in good hands,” Correa said standing next to the president-elect.
"A big hug to those who believed in our proposal as well as to those who did not vote for us; we'll work for them too," Moreno tweeted on Monday.
Like it or not, 21st century socialism and its promise of justice and fairness for the people of Latin America is very much alive.
As I told you before, Ecuadorans are not fools.