By Yuri Garcia
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa on Tuesday said he will ask for his cabinet’s resignation and reshape his political party after losses in mayoral races in the country’s major cities.
Opposition candidates on Sunday won elections to run the local governments of Quito and Cuenca, and maintained control of the economic capital and port city of Guayaquil in an unsettling result for the government.
“There will be a cabinet crisis,” Correa told reporters in the port city of Guayaquil, adding that he had considered changing his government ministers prior to the vote.
“The problem isn’t the government; it could win many posts … we believe in any case that fresh air is needed.”
He said he would restructure his Alianza Pais or Country Alliance movement that has sought to make its socialist “Citizen’s Revolution” the defining feature of its government, a project which aims to reduce poverty and social inequality.
Other members of Correa’s PAIS party, and of Avanza, another left-leaning party that often supports the president, say that the troubles require more than a cabinet shuffle and a redefinition of the “Citizen’s Revolution.”
Ramiro Gonzalez, leader of the Avanza party, says that PAIS rejected the idea of an alliance with Avanza and lost several elections as a result. “We would have have been much stronger together but forming a united party was rejected by PAIS leaders,” Gonzalez said. He added that a number of elections, including the mayor’s race in Cuenca and possible Quito, could have been won had PAIS and Avanza merged.
Others, both within and witout of PAIS, said that part of the problem is Correa’s abrasive personality. “It can be argued that many people voted against PAIS candidates because the president’s harsh and sometimes mean-spirited positions on some issues,” said Rafael Diaz, a professor of political science in Quito. “He presents the image that he is always right and everyone else is always wrong. Some people simply don’t like the approach,” Diaz said that Correa probably hurt the re-election chances of many of his party’s candidates. “Some people simply voted against the president becuase of his attitude. They wanted to send a message.”
In all, PAIS lost mayoral elections in the country’s 11 largest cities.
Correa said the loss of Quito was painful and could make the country ungovernable. He accused associates of the winner, Mauricio Rodas, of links with the “fascist right” wing in Venezuela.
Venezuela has been shaken by a fortnight of violent opposition protests over inflation, crime and economic shortages that its socialist President Nicolas Maduro has blamed on “fascists” seeking a coup with the backing of the United States.
Correa had warned in the run-up to the elections that defeat in the capital city could tempt opposition leaders to use their power to destabilize the country, a tactic he said was behind the protests in Venezuela.
According to Diaz, comparisons with Venezuela were seen as scare tactics by many votes, who rejected the idea.
Other analysts say the defeat in Ecuador reflects dissatisfaction among the electorate over the Correa administration’s perceived interference in local government and harsh criticism of opponents during the campaign, and may force him to adopt a more conciliatory style.
Correa denied the election was a disaster for his movement, pointing out that the party received the most votes overall nationwide.
Ecuador is the smallest member of the OPEC group of oil producing nations, with output averaging 520,000 barrels per day in January.
Credit: Reuters News/UK, http://uk.reuters.com; Photo caption: Correa with defeated Quito Mayor Augusto Barrera at press conference Monday.