Ecuador’s Left Is Back

Above photo: Andrés Arauz campaigns in Chimborazo. From Facebook.

And on the verge of power.

Four years after Rafael Correa’s successor Lenín Moreno abandoned the Citizen Revolution for neoliberalism, Ecuador’s Left is back. We speak to presidential frontrunner Andrés Arauz ahead of this weekend’s election.

The race for the Presidency of Ecuador is entering its final stages, and the desperation on the part of both the neoliberal government of Lenín Moreno and the country’s right-wing political parties to avoid the victory of the Left has reached fever pitch.

Since the beginning of the right-wing turn by Moreno’s government and the political persecution of the key leaders of the Citizen Revolution—most notably Rafael Correa and Jorge Glas—countless attempts have been made to prevent the participation in the elections of either Correa himself or any other political leader affiliated to his movement.

This has included preventing the registration of the Citizen Revolution Movement as a political party, a ban on the Fuerza Compromiso Social (FCS) electoral movement used by them to run in the 2019 local elections, a ban on Correa running as a vice-presidential candidate, and several attempts to prevent the registration of the Andrés Arauz-Carlos Rabascall presidential ticket. Although these attempts at blocking the re-emergence of the Left in the political landscape ultimately failed, the electoral process itself has come under threat.

The desperation on the part of the elites can be contrasted with the desperation of the ordinary Ecuadorians. The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed nearly 15,000 lives, the unemployment level has hit double digits for the first time in almost two decades, and IMF-sanctioned austerity continues to be implemented. In this environment, the workers of Ecuador are once again embracing revolutionary change.

Andrés Arauz, an economist and the former minister in the government of Rafael Correa, is seen as the favourite to win the Ecudorian election, with the majority of polls from the period of December 2020 to January 2021 giving him between 35 and 42 percent of the valid votes. That places him ahead of the Right’s preferred candidate, Guillermo Lasso—also the country’s most notorious corporate banker—who has 18-36 percent.

Andrés Arauz sat down with Denis Rogatyuk of Jacobin América Latina to discuss his candidacy – and what Ecuador and the world could expect from his future presidency.

Denis Rogatyuk (DR): What measures are you planning to implement to resolve the issue of unemployment and begin the economic recovery in Ecuador?

Andrés Arauz (AA): Our main priority, in the short term, is economic recovery. This also depends on the recovery of the healthcare system.

We can do many things, but economic activity needs to resume. That is why we consider acquiring vaccines a priority. We know that until vaccination is implemented in Ecuador, until work is generated, until the state recovers its strength to resume public works, we need to give immediate help. We have proposed a programme to give $1000 to a million Ecuadorian families in our first week of government.

In this way, we boost the families’ economy (‘la economia familiar‘). The money can cover debt repayments, buy medicines, food, and clothing, and if there is a little left over, it can even be used to start a small business venture. With this, we reactivate the entire national economy: the mother or father of the family goes out to the market, to the store, to the commercial premises, and the money circulation increases.

DR: How do you plan on renegotiating both the debt and the terms with the IMF?

AA: We are first going to use the resources that already exist in Ecuador, but that this government has allowed to be taken out of the country and stored abroad, in Miami, in Panama, in Switzerland. That money has to return to Ecuador to finance our development – not the war adventures of other countries, but our interests.

After that, we will establish dignified conditions with our sovereign economic plan that seeks economic growth, and that seeks to solve the problem of unemployment by generating work and restarting public works and services. If the IMF wants to help us with that Ecuadorian plan, they are welcome – but as the agreement with the IMF is now, we are not going to comply with it.

DR: What will be the great project in Ecuador that goes down in history bearing the stamp of Andrés Arauz?

AA: The great challenge we have is to successfully emerge from the pandemic. Right now, we cannot plan for great milestones, because we have to get out of our crisis first. To be honest with you, the great achievement that we are going to have in our government is to show that there can be a government that respects the dignity of the people, that does not take advantage of the crisis to give more power to the rich, and that does not take advantage of the crisis to be able to kick the people. On the contrary – we are going to show that there can be a government of the people.

When we get out of the pandemic, the first years, maybe the first two years, will be centred on recovering the future and putting education at the forefront of society’s transformation. My dream is that we can have the best educational system in Latin America. We will use science, technology, innovation, knowledge, universal connectivity, and the internet to show that young Ecuadorians are the protagonists of their society, and can bring about the change that our country requires.

DR: Do you feel part of the original peoples of Ecuador? How do you feel about the Sumak Kawsay ideology and how do you hope to apply its principles in your future government?

AA: I feel part of the Plurinational and Intercultural State that is constitutionally established in Ecuador. All of our Latin America is Plurinational and Intercultural, and it’s important that we learn to recognise what the constitution says. It’s important that we recognise the diverse actors that are part of our culture. We have to get out of the colonial or neocolonial logic and begin to recognise our diversity as our main source of wealth.

I have been close to the Indigenous peoples, but also with the Afro communities—the Montubio people of Ecuador—because we need to make a call for unity now. This country can no longer bear fights between politicians, and it can no longer bear to live with the repressive policies that caused so much pain and damage to our society, as in October 2019.

We need to reconcile as a country on the basis of a future project such as the Constitution of Good Living. That utopia that should mark the field for all of Ecuador, regardless of the ethnicity or nationality to which we belong. We need to build that unity.

DR: How do you see the future of the relationship with the Confederation of the Indigenous Nations of Ecuador (CONAIE) and other indigenous movements?

AA: I see excellent opportunities to build and implement the Plurinational and Intercultural State, with the CONAIE, but also with each of the Indigenous peoples and nationalities of our country, with the bases of Indigenous organizations, and with the communities that are in each of Ecuador’s territories. We have to advance in terms of irrigation, productive projects, credit, support in savings and credit for the Indigenous cooperatives of our country, in terms of being able to have an educational system of the highest quality that preserves our ancestral languages.

We are going to declare the ancestral languages in a state of emergency on the first day of our government, which helps to preserve an Indigenous justice system – not only for political acts, but also to help administrative procedure in our communities, so that individuals don’t have to travel to the capital to solve their problems.

The implementation of the Plurinational and Intercultural State will be administered by a Plurinational and Intercultural team.

DR: Do you think that the electoral sabotage against your candidacy has weakened your campaign? If so, in what way?

AA: They have tried to weaken the strength of our campaign among the Ecuadorian people, but it has not worked. The Ecuadorian people have immense solidarity and sympathy with our proposals, which represent them in the majority. Our identity is first patriotic, then democratic, and then progressive – so those who tried to set the traps did nothing but project us further into the hearts of Ecuadorians.

DR: But the Ecuadorian people have a rebellious heart, too.

AA: Of course, and it’s a justified rebellion after centuries of oppression, and years of a nefarious government that has mistreated us. I do want to thank the Moreno government for one thing, though – he reawakened that energy, that youthful outrage that was hidden for several years and that re-emerged in October of last year. Now there’s much more critical awareness of the role of politics in our society, and that will allow us, together with the youth, together with the people, together with the women of our country, and together with the workers, to recover the future with dignity.

DR: The current Minister of Health got the vaccine even before the medics on the frontlines of the pandemic. What do you think about that?

AA: It’s outrageous – not only that they have bought only eight thousand doses, which are four thousand vaccines, but that they did not dedicate it to frontline personnel. Instead, the government passed it to their friends and their relatives, scamming the Ecuadorian people. That’s unforgivable. I believe that they will face harsh consequences for cheating the Ecuadorian people, and for the Minister of Health, for having violated his own oath as a doctor.

But I think we need to advance considerably in the matter of vaccinations. Our priority is that the Ecuadorian people have the vaccine first—our health personnel, our soldiers, our policemen, and our teachers—so that the youth, the children, can return to school. In societies like ours, we also need to rebalance the roles of men and women. Women, and mothers particularly, have been hit the hardest by the effects of the pandemic, because they have had to become teachers, nurses, caregivers, rectors, janitors, and administrators, in addition to their professional and household work.

So the vaccine is essential. We need to diversify the supply of the vaccine, and we have made initial efforts with the Oxford vaccine, produced in Argentina, so that it can reach the entire Ecuadorian territory.

DR: How do you see the future of Ecuador in Latin America and the multipolar world? What kind of a relationship do you hope to build with China and the new administration in the United States?

AA: We want to continue building diversified relationships with all countries of the world. We want to build exchanges in terms of educational experiences, in terms of science and technology, in terms of inventions and innovation, in order to contribute to Ecuadorian development. Our principles will be peace, democracy, and development. These are the same principles on which the United Nations were built.

We believe in multilateralism. We are against the multipolar world. We need to move away from the hegemony of the single country, especially in the Western Hemisphere. We will continue to build relationships with our friends in China, and in Asia in general. We want to have good relations with all countries of the world – with US, Europe, Canada, Eurasian countries, and Russia as well.

Our priority, though, is Latin American integration. We need our own bloc [of countries] – the Latin American bloc. I will personally be in charge of reconstituting regional integration in our country.

DR: During Rafael Correa’s administration, Ecuador was considered the capital of South America, because you have the main office of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

AA: Lenin Moreno decided to resign Ecuador’s status as the capital of South America – something unforgivable. We hope to return to UNASUR. We hope to improve it, too, so it is not only a project of integration among governments or politicians, but also of integration among people. That means making an effort to include a programme of educational exchange, like the European Erasmus program, where students across Latin American countries can study one semester abroad in any other country of the region. That will help to build relationships among Latin Americans that will last for decades.

DR: One of the main criticisms we have heard from the opposition is that you are a clone of Rafael Correa. What do you think about these comparisons?

AA: Rafael is a friend, a colleague, a co-leader. He and I agree politically on the needs of our country, but we are the improved version. I am of a new generation. We have that principle of generational renewal: we are going to inject energy, youth, innovation, creativity, and contemporaneity into the political proposal of the Citizen Revolution.

DR: If elected, who will govern – you or Correa?

AA:  On 24 May, when I swear to respect and enforce the Constitution of Ecuador, I will adhere to what the Constitution says, which is that the one who makes the decisions is the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic will be me; Rafael will be one of my main advisers.