Mayors and prefects from several cities and provinces, alongside representatives of multiple political parties and social organizations, gathered in Cuenca on Monday to form a new political front against the government of President Rafael Correa.
One year after legislative elections on February 23, 2014, when candidates of Correa’s PAIS Alliance party lost in several important cities across the country in one of the ruling party’s few defeats at the polls, over 40 political actors attended the meeting hosted by the Azuay Province Prefect Paúl Carrasco.
Notably absent from the gathering was Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, once an opponent of Correa. Cabrera pledged his support for the president last summer during a meeting in Cuenca of the country’s top elected officials.
Nebot asserted that national unity is essential for true democracy, as well as the respect for pluralism and freedom. “We have come to speak about the country with responsibility, without sectarianism, going beyond ideology and politics,” he said. “We have come to seal a joint commitment to begin … the indispensable national unity of all, which is nothing without respect for local and provincial diversity,” he added.
“Progress is not passing laws and constitutions about it, or promising it,” he continued. “It’s the opposite. Progress is to do, not to talk; to deliver, not to promise; to add, not to subtract … so we have to fight and defend the different views of local and regional progress that have been successful.”
For his part, Rodas said that the meeting with his colleagues was “the beginning of a joint effort in order to create a democratic space … under the framework of ideological, regional, and cultural diversity.”
Rodas also talked about an imminent economic crisis facing the country, and pledged to do everything in his power “to prevent Ecuadorians from being harmed.”
“We will maintain the proposal to promote … measures to stimulate investment and development,” he said.
Rodas, who has appeared with Correa in public on several occasions in recent months pledging to work for the common good of Quito, did not criticize the president directly.
As the opposition meeting was taking place, supporters of Correa and Aliance PAIS were meeting at Mall del Rio, denouncing opponents as “representatives of the political right who desire to return Ecuador to the status quo.”
Azuay Governor Leonardo Berrezueta led the “opposition to the opposition” meeting and said supporters of the “conservative restoration” must be challenged. “We will not allow the right-wing to destabilize the government,” he said. Berrezueta is a political appointee of Correa.
In closing remarks at the opposition meeting, Carrasco, said that “unity within diversity is the path that will lead to better days,” and invited others who believe democracy to be at risk to join the initiative.
He further argued that the time had arrived for every person opposed to the government to set aside parties, ideologies, and personal interests. “We need a democratic majority…. Today I pledge, as a radical democrat of the left, to build a democratic space for unity. The nation and democracy come first,” he stated.
The new front led by the three local officials follows other joint-opposition initiatives, such as Commitment Ecuador, a movement calling for a popular referendum to prevent indefinite reelection in the country. Commitment Ecuador members were not present at the gathering.
During the opposition meeting in Cuenca, Carrasco, Nebot, and Rodas signed a manifesto titled “A Call for the Unity and Defense of the Democratic Principles of Febrary 23,” in which they pledged to work together to defend democracy.
“We express our willingness to work together to promote and unreservedly defend democracy, civil liberties, civil rights, pluralism, and respect for all people regardless of their line of thought, which are the principles and values of February 23,” the document reads.