Ecuador: Homegrown Protests and Foreign Influence

Armando Chaguaceda

Celebración por la derrogación de las medidas de austeridad del gobierno que desencadenaron una revuelta en Quito, Ecuador.  El 13 de octubre de 2019.   Foto: Dolores Ochoa / AP

HAVANA TIMES – Recent protests in Ecuador refer to three analytical dimensions: a home-based genesis (the combination of historic legacy and political circumstances), a certain foreign influence (of Venezuelan governments and allies) in their development, and in the crossfire, an incalculable impact on democracy in the continent.

These three dimensions are real, and they each deserve their own individual analysis, combining political history, public policies, international relations and human rights. Within the diverse range of agents and agendas, both native and foreign, which converge in today’s crisis.

The main cause of this crisis is its political economy: an old dollarized model became exhausted, wiping out monetary sovereignty, throwing the balance of payments off, stifling national producers and demanding subsidies for consumption.

This is why reducing the country’s protests as just Chavista destabilization efforts is unsustainable. Ecuador’s indigenous movement, which led the mobilizations, has in the past stood up to neoliberal presidents and Correa. When it comes to Correa, last Friday, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador announced: “Correa and his supporters criminalized and murdered our companions over 10 years; today, they are trying to take advantage of our fighting platform.”

But, citizens’ complaints are much more diverse than just indigenous demands. They also include middle and working classes, who identify with the traditional movements in Andean democracies.

Moreno’s main problem has been not having a political base: his leadership has always been argued, challenged and monitored, from within the official party, by the Correa supporters. Plus, bearing the cost of the pressing fiscal adjustment (which everybody knows is necessary, although they differ in their opinions on how it should be implemented and on compensation for those affected), Moreno has been worn down in front of all sides. Both Correa-line politicians and the Christian Socialists hope to succeed him, in the event of early elections.

However, ignoring movements by the Correa group and its allies (in and outside Ecuador) is naive, at the very least. Let’s take Correa’s recent trip to Havana, for example. Analyst Iria Puyosa has warned that these the actions by Correa followers (which are more comparable to the Chavista “collectives” than the repertoire of protests by Ecuador’s indigenous movement) have caused unrest in parts of Quito and Cotopaxi, as well as an attack on the Comptroller’s, where documents on corruption cases involving the former president and his closest allies are kept.

According to Puyosa, Correa and backers have taken advantage of the situation that became violent, so that the Government could respond with repression. There is no doubt that the “Venezuelan” propaganda apparatus is at play here: you just need to take a look at live coverage, with its twin narrative on Telesur and RT televisions.

Preliminary conslusions

With the announcement of measures previously announced being repealed, on Sunday, several preliminary conclusions can be drawn.

First of all, that the main political players, opponents and government officials, would have decided (from their respective positions of strength or inability) to channel the conflict via institutional and peaceful means, getting rid of authoritarian and uprising scenes.

Secondly, that the government’s clear weakness would suggest their willingness to engage in a greater and better dialogue with mobilized society, so as to get their take on the framework of an action plan so as to heal the economy as quickly as possible, taking care to ensure that the working masses are affected very little.

Third but not least, that neighboring democracies and the international community should be doing everything they can to accompany a delicate process, which can go off the rails again, whether because adjustments are inevitable or the probable continuation of Correa’s revanchist agenda, as well as that of his Venezuelan allies.

Respecting the popular economy and peaceful social protest are key factors in any democracy. The rejection of destabilization efforts promoted by hypocritical autocracies should also be another factor, as they systematically violate the same rights in their own country which their neighbors are calling for.

In Ecuador, every sector (at least those interested in defending the democratic political game) should be looking to find wide consensus and uphold agreements reached via negotiation. At the end of the day, the fate of democratic Latin America lies between the people’s sovereignty and national sovereignty, in a tense play-off that reminds us of the extreme polarization of the Cold War.

Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.