By Liam Higgins
Former President Rafael Correa leaves Ecuador for Belgium on Monday and for new President Lenin Moreno it can’t come soon enough.
Correa has been attacking Moreno’s new government on an almost daily basis in recent weeks, mostly through his Twitter account but also in the columns of the government-owned El Telégrafo newspaper.
Among the ex-president’s objections are Moreno’s “dialog” with members of the political opposition, indigenous groups and business leaders, the lack of a strong defense for embattled Vice President Jorge Glas, management changes at Yachay University, pardons granted to those arrested during anti-government protests, and possible changes to the communication law. The list goes on.
Publicly, Moreno has responded with characteristic calmness and smiles. At a Wednesday meeting with the Aliazna País National Assembly delegation, the president said that party members should have the maturity to accept differences of opinion.
“Let’s not be afraid of our differences,” Moreno told follow party members. “It’s fine to disagree. It’s even fine to disagree passionately so long as we all share the same principles and keep our eye on our goals.”
Although Moreno praised Correa for serving an “historic role in changing Ecuador forever,” he showed obvious irritation at the tone of Correa’s attacks. “I will continue to hold the dialogs with all sectors of this country because I want to know what they think and I want their help,” he said. “I don’t care if some people don’t like my approach. If you want someone who hates and attacks others, I am not your man.”
Several Alianza País members and Correa loyalists are clearly unhappy with Moreno’s approach. Former National Assembly President Gabriela Rivadeneira and assemblywoman Marcela Aguiñaga refused to stay for a press conference following the meeting, telling the press as they left that they do not support Moreno’s discussions with opposition politicians, particularly those who attack Glas.
Political observers say Alianza País’s internecine conflict will probably continue even with Correa out the country. “Twitter is international and Correa’s followers show no sign of backing down in their attacks on Moreno,” says Natalia Sierra, a political science professor at Quito’s Catholic University. “Correa does not seem capable of letting go. He is furious that he can no longer control the government and he knows he is on the outside looking in.”
Like others, Sierra says that Moreno has a solid upper hand in the fight with Correa. “The National Assembly, which was the power base for the Correistas, has lost its super majority, giving Moreno the ability to negotiate with other parties to accomplish his goals,” she says.
She adds: “It’s also obvious that Moreno is a much more popular leader than Correa was at the end of his term. There’s almost a 30 percentage point advantage for Moreno and if Correa continues his social media attacks his numbers will drop even more.”