Ecuadorian Opponents Reject Lenin Moreno’s Economic Reform

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The government criminalizes social protest by imprisoning members of the Rafael Correa party, the Citizen Revolution.

The Lenin Moreno Administration is moving in two fronts since the mass mobilizations that took place in Ecuador about a month ago. On the one hand, it is criminalizing social protests so opponents can be charged with “rebellion.” This is how they managed to imprison members of Rafael Correa’s political party, Citizen Revolution, as well as leaders of indigenous organizations. Three legislators of this movement requested asylum at Mexico’s Embassy to Ecuador in this connection. On the other hand, the Government is trying to impose economic measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Days ago, opponents rejected a mega economic reform bill adapted to the markets.

Political Persecution and Criminalization of Social Protest

The three legislators of Rafael Correa’s party continue inside Mexico’s Embassy, a month after they for political asylum. Warned about the beginning of prosecution against them and impending arrests, they decided to seek shelter with the Mexican Government. Four other representatives of the same party are on pre-trial detention charged with “rebellion.” The most prominent of these cases is that of the Pichincha province prefect, Paola Pabon, who has been imprisoned since October 15th. “The Attorney General called for her arrest based on tweets,” messages posted on Twitter, Pabon’s lawyer Ramiro Aguilar Torres told Pagina 12. “According to the law, ‘rebellion’ is defined as funding, creating, commanding or inciting an armed movement in the pursuit of violating the Constitution, rising up against the National Assembly or the President. But there is no evidence incriminating Pabon of any of that,” the lawyer said. Similarly, he said the due process of law was not met during her arrest. “Once the Prefect was imprisoned, we demanded the right to appeal. The law stipulates that any arrested person has the right to be heard by a judge. He or she will decide whether the arrest is constitutional or not. We are still waiting for that appeal,” Aguilar Torres noted. “They were remarkably fast to arrest the Prefect. But concerning her defense it all became slow,” the lawyer added.

The case of Citizen Revolution’s legislator Virgilio Hernandez also reveals connivance between Government and Justice. Hernandez was also charged with “rebellion” and arrested on November 5th. “The exceptional nature of this legal notion enables the trial to be held, without access to evidence or even the accusation itself. But the Attorney General posted pictures of the raids in its Twitter profile and distributed them among some media outlets. They also leaked audios and some of the chats of Hernandez’s cell phone. This is completely illegal,” Aguilar Torres said.

The three Citizen Revolution legislators who requested asylum in Mexico’s Embassy are Gabriela Rivadeneira, Soledad Buendia, and Carlos Viteri. These arrests obviously show political intent, Citizen Revolution member and partner in Congress of, Pabel Muñoz, told Pagina 12 “According to Ecuador’s Constitution, the Assembly or the President may be demanded to resign and then call for elections in the face of internal social upheaval. Our comrades expressed that the use of this article should be analyzed. That resulted in their legal persecution,” Muñoz said. In this connection, the legislator said the rule of law is at risk in his country. “The most obvious evidence that the rule of law is lost in Ecuador would be that due process is not respected if trials are made through headlines instead of courts, if prisoners are not free to defend themselves,” Muñoz stated.

Regardless of differences among Correa’s supporters and indigenous organizations, the latter are also denouncing political persecution. “Proceedings have been opened against all top-ranking indigenous leaders, as well as other leaders in local territories,”  Andres Tapia, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, member of CONAIE said. “We are very worried about the fact that while the Government is calling to dialog, they are keeping a lawfare policy.”

Congress Rejects IMF Project

Lenin Moreno is following the IMF instructions to the letter. Expecting new payments to try to improve the country’s economy, the Government had submitted to Congress a mega fiscal and monetary bill. The international agency had demanded passing this law as a condition to release pending payments. However, opponents managed to reach 70 votes to reject the bill. “It was such a bad law that it was rejected even by right-wing sectors,” Muñoz explained. “It was fit for only the banking, financial sectors, and for the IMF in mind. The Government did not comprehend what the Ecuadorian society had expressed, nor did they get the Latin America’s situation. Look at the example of Argentina, Colombia, and now Chile, neoliberalism’s best student,” said Muñoz.

Lenin Moreno announced he is going to submit another project focused specifically on the fiscal issue. The Government reiterated reforms are essential for Government revenues. Opponents criticize that poor sectors are always left to carry the can. “They said the bill was going to give a boost to production, economic growth and increase foreign investment. But analyzing it in detail you don’t see any of that. It imposed increase taxes for those who would sell over $ 10,000 per year. We think we have to be more progressive than that, by making those who have more pay more. That would be fair,” said Munoz. “Now the Government is complaining and blaming us for not passing the bill but they expected us to analyze in a few weeks over 404 articles that changed 22 legal instruments. That was madness,” said Munoz to Moreno’s criticism. Last Monday, Ecuador Vice-President Otto Sonnenholzner said they would start dialogs to discuss the new law. Citizen Revolution members doubt the Government is going to meet with them. “We’d like to propose measures and to discuss every law item by item, not like a closed package,” he added.

Social unrest was expressed across the country less than a month ago. The major claim was to abandon the IMF programs altogether. The correlation of forces is being measured now through the legal institutions but the Government continues implementing the same policies that led to the upheaval. Time will tell how long this strategy can be maintained without people going out to the streets again.