By Liam Higgins
Almost unnoticed in the aftermath of the February 7 national election was the death of the movement that dominated Ecuador’s political landscape for 14 years. Founded by former president Rafael Correa among others, Alianza Pais, failed to place a single member in the new National Assembly and its presidential candidate, Ximena Peña, could muster only 1.5 percent of the vote.
Under former president Rafael Correa, in office from 2007 to 2017, Alianza Pais rubber stamped almost all of Correa’s agenda in the National Assembly, controlling all the key committees. For two of Correa’s three terms, the party had a super majority and was rarely challenged on major issues.
“From the beginning, the trouble with Alianza Pais was that it was Correa’s party and lacked a broad constituent base,” says Quito political analyst María Belén Loor. “There was no allowance for disagreement and Correa punished any assembly member who disagreed with him, often with personal insults. The party was simply part of the machinery of Correismo and his so-called Citizens Revolution.”
During the time of Alianza Pais dominance, the size and reach of government expanded exponentially, as Correa pursued a plan of top-to-bottom control of Ecuadorian society. “Many of the changes he made were good, of course,” according to Loor. “Education and health care were expanded and improved, infrastructure was built, crime and poverty were reduced. Of course, Correa benefited tremendously from sky-high oil prices that we may never see again.”
To outsiders, says Loor, Alianza Pais appeared to be a leftist movement but was, in fact, often a reactionary force representing Correa’s personal beliefs. “Correa opposed many positions of the traditional left, including environmentalism, abortion rights and expanded rights for women and gays. One of the reasons he did not run for another term in 2016 was because of his declining popularity among the leftists who put him in office in the first place, particularly the indigenous population who he insulted during protests in 2015 and 2016. If he had run, he would have lost.”
It was left to President Lenín Moreno to end the reign of Correismo and Alianza Pais, says political science professor Rebeca Morla. “I’m not sure that Moreno understood that the party was part of a personality cult but he set about dismantling it as soon as he assumed office,” she says. “I agree with Correa that Moreno was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who intended to destroy Correismo from the beginning.”
Morla adds: “Moreno claimed that Correa left the table and cupboard empty when he assumed office, which was partly true. Now, of course, Moreno has sold the table and cupboard and there is almost nothing left.”
Despite the claims of Correa acolyte Andres Arauz and Correa himself, both Morla and Loor do not see a reemergence of Correismo. “Arauz has a good chance of becoming president but it will be impossible for him to restore the glory days of the Citizens Revolution,” says Morla. “His party, the Unión por la Esperanza, will not become another Alianza Pais. He will not have broad support in the Assembly and will not have the financial resources that Correa had.”
Even if he wins, which Loor says is far from a “sure thing,” Arauz faces a difficult path. “I believe it is safe to predict that Arauz — or Lasso, if he wins — will be a one-term president. “Coming out of the pandemic, the country faces massive challenges and there is no money to meet them. The oil money is gone and the lending sources, whether they are the IMF or China, appear to be drying up.”
There are better times ahead for Ecuador, says Loor, but they are probably five to ten years away. “The next president will play the role of sacrificial lamb, I’m afraid, as the economy struggles and the people become impatient. Correismo will be part of the sacrifice.”