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Moreno is undoing Rafael Correa’s legacy but what exactly will he put in its place?

By Soledad Stoessel

It may be a bit much to invoke Gustav Meyrink’s Golem – the indomitable clay creation that destroyed everything in its path, alive but soulless – but the lurching, paradoxical maneuvering of Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, does lend itself to literary comparisons.

Moreno served as vice president for six years under Rafael Correa, the popular and charismatic founder of political party Alianza Pais. In April 2017, he was narrowly elected as the successor to this left-wing administration, which oversaw the most stable political period of Ecuador’s democratic history.

During his presidential campaign against the conservative banker Guillermo Lasso, there were signs that Moreno was distancing himself from Correa. But at the time, these subtle political shifts seemed necessary to win an extremely tight race on a continent where the once-powerful Left is now ailing.

Now, just 120 days into his four-year term, Moreno is in the midst of executing a shocking breakaway from both the Alianza Pais platform and its supreme leader, Correa. This political turnaround is complicating Ecuador’s democratic transition and unraveling his party. At risk is nothing less than the will of the people.

The outstretched hand

Elected by just 2.3 points over Lasso, Moreno knew his administration would face serious challenges – among them, governing a highly polarized nation.

Moreno at Correa’s second inauguration.

To tackle them, candidate Moreno seemed to think that demonstrating autonomy from Correa was a must-do. On the campaign trail, Moreno promised voters “national reconciliation,” “an outstretched hand” and “continuity with change.” Commentators took to calling this stratagem the “de-Correafication” of Ecuador.

Once in office, that process expanded. The president has now engaged every social and political force that Correa’s administration had considered “the opposition,” from the indigenous movement to the financial sector and media conglomerates.

Moreno has also held talks with opposition parties and the Ecuadorian Business Committee, a lobby that had urged the Correa government, which spent heavily on social welfare, to curb public expenditures.

Pivot time

Conversation led to action. Moreno acceded to financial sector demands that private banks be allowed to work with digital cash. In Ecuador, all electronic payments had previously been controlled by the central bank.

He also agreed to introduce reforms to the Communications Act that will protect freedom of expression, acquiescing to calls from media companies that for years did battle with Correa.

Finally, in a nod to austerity, the new president cut civil servant salaries, even though Ecuador ranks among the Latin American nations with the lowest public debt.

Such moves have worried the Alianza Pais’s base, who fear that the president is subverting Correa’s self-declared “citizen’s revolution.” If so, he’s doing it without any clear political or economic vision. Moreno’s policies are so incongruous that the right-wing Lasso recently offered to “lend” the president his economic plan.

Both ruling party and opposition

It didn’t take long for Moreno and his powerful predecessor to begin publicly clashing.

In June, Correa began to “editorialize” the Moreno administration in opinion pieces in El Telégrafo newspaper. On Twitter, he implicitly criticized the president as having either a “short memory” or acting “in bad faith.”

Moreno responded in kind. In a public meeting in June, he said, “Now we can breath freely, slowly we will all shed our sheep-like behavior.” He added that “the table is not set…he [Correa] could have been a bit more reasonable about leaving things in better condition.”

The former president quickly took to the internet to condemn the president’s intractability, saying that Moreno’s actions would undo El Correismo – Correa’s self-titled political movement – bow to corporate interests and kill Ecuador’s citizen revolution.

Adding to the chorus was Moreno’s own vice president, Jorge Glas, a Correa insider. In an Aug. 2 public letter, he protested President Moreno’s rapprochement with conservative forces.

All this has fueled the new president’s move to break away from El Correismo, even though just months ago Ecuadorian voters opted in favor of Correa’s legacy.

The resignation, in August, of several senior officials from El Correismo’s progressive wing showed that the government and the political movement were drifting farther apart. Today, under Moreno, Alianza Pais is in the strange position of being both the ruling power and the opposition.

Scandal or political convenience?

Adding fuel to the fire are explosive revelations that at least 18 Ecuadorian officials have been implicated in Brazil’s massive Odebrecht scandal.

The international bribery scheme has now taken down several senior members of Correa’s administration, including Vice President Glas. He stands accused of leading a network of civil servants who accepted US$33 million in corporate kickbacks.

Moreno could ask for no better excuse to isolate his Correa-friendly veep. On Aug. 3, one day after Glas’ critical open letter, the president stripped the vice president of all official powers. On Oct. 2, Glas was arrested, and he is now in preventive detention while under investigation.

Moreno did promise to “battle corruption,” and his anti-corruption front had seemed likely to please many sectors of society that are frustrated with public malfeasance.

However, his efforts now appear less targeted at weeding out corruption than at undermining Correa’s legacy. Glas is in jail, but the economic powers that be, such as the South American financial conglomerate Grupo Eljuri – a key Odebrecht player – have remained immune from prosecution.

Among Lasso’s electoral base, 81 percent now rate his administration positively. Moreno’s policies have also been welcomed by people in major urban hubs like Quito and Cuenca, where the administration’s approval rates have risen since June.

Referendum time

It was in this already tangled context that Moreno called for a plebiscite, theoretically a grassroots-inspired way to address national concerns. The president asked citizens and parties from across the political spectrum to submit questions that they wanted the government to help answer.

Of the almost 400 proposals received, the government will go to referendum next year with just seven questions. Among them will be to roll back capital gains taxes aimed at limiting land speculation and whether to undo Correa’s rollback of presidential term limits.

The selection process confirms the marginalization of Alianza Pais’s issues – he accepted just three of the party’s congressional leaders’ 33 submissions, alienating his own legislative bloc – and the resurgence of bankers, private media, traditional party leaders and financiers in Moreno’s coalition.

Rather than continue his predecessor’s legacy of reforms, Ecuador’s president seems keen to wield his popular mandate as a weapon to kill El Correismo once and for all.

Soledad Stoessel is a postdoctoral student researching “Latin American Political Processes” at the National University of La Plata, Argentina.

26 thoughts on “Moreno is undoing Rafael Correa’s legacy but what exactly will he put in its place?

  1. Interesting article yet blatantly bias. Correa was/is corrupt and purposefully kept the corruption of his real number one choice for president concealed during the election. The now Ex Vice President was deep into the oil bribery and Correa knew it! He should be thankful someone from his party won the election at all, becuase if the truth had come out during the election, the banker from Gaya would be President now, for sure!

      1. Why does being Argentine qualify to in depth political understanding it doesn’t. That’s foolish thinking – cheers mate !

    1. Oh ! A Latin American political expert. Always take in any information as biased and colored. No one has ‘total’ clarity in any issue really. So bias is a given. Correa reigned over Ecuador with 10 years of stability and economic progress and beneficial social advances…..corruption ?? Yes, so, what else is new in Latin America’s way of doing business. Moreno – can he do a good a job in the positive regards as Correa or will he screw it up ? Cheers mate !

    2. Oil bribery? Wow, apparently you have evidence even the fiscalia hasn’t seen. You should report your findings. I’m sure they’d be greatful considering they don’t even have anything on Glas yet, let alone Correa.

  2. Why must so many people bastardize issues of right and wrong into issues of the political left and right? Why cant’ we strive to implement the policies and programs that serve our society (individually and collectively) as a whole instead of catering to and benefiting selected individuals or groups?

    Don’t policies, agendas and programs that give opportunity to and promote a happy, secure and fulfilled life serve those on the left and right?

    Divide and conquer — the ruling elites have this divisive game plan mastered!

    1. Yep, all it takes for the top 1% to have complete control is to have 49.5% Liberals and 49.5% Conservatives. If the masses continue to vote for the party that advertises itself as Conservative and the party that advertises itself as Liberal they will continue to get what they have been getting up till now. It´s not the right wing that is the problem, nor the left wing but rather the whole damn bird. Niether of the two establishment political parties will keep a pervert´s hands out of the pants of you and your children at airports or prevent police from doing warrantless unlawfull, illegal, and unethical searches on the streets.

  3. It would have been good for the editors of QuencaHighLife to have accompanied the article with more of the author’s background and credentials in order to establish credibility. According to The Conversation website Stoesse has a…
    “Ph.D Social Sciences (University of La Plata). Political Science (Latin America Faculty of Social Sciences, Ecuador). Her current fields of research are political processes in Latin America, political conflict; state return and post-neoliberalism in South America, political representation. She has been professor at the Institute of National High Studies in Ecuador and at the Journalism and Social Communication Faculty in the University of La Plata. She is a postdoctoral fellowship with a grant from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in the Institute for Research in Humanities and Social Sciences (University of La Plata).”

    She also authored an article also appearing in The Conversation entitled “The left won Ecuador’s presidential election — cue right-wing revolt”. Having read that article in addition to the present one, I only see a bias in favor of the general population of Ecuador and against the corrupt rich elites.

    1. Too bad you didn’t have the knowledge or background to actually interpret what you dug up in research. Let me help you. This woman is as left wing as it gets and that is reflected in her education and work experience as well as the body of her published works. I’m not making a judgment on that, per se, but it does give a person context to understand her biases.

      As I read her article, because I DO have sufficient background to understand her perspective, I realized that her commentary is about as useful to me as would be the opinion of Paul Krugman. I used to actually take the time to debunk Krugman’s Keynesian nonsense before dismissing it, but after years of doing so, I realized that was an exercise in futility, just as would be debunking this woman’s nonsense. If I thought it would actually foment a real discussion, I might be tempted to do so, but that seems to also be a waste of time. It’s that old notion about trying to teach a pig to sing. I’m sure you know the result of that endeavor.

      1. She’s not just a leftist, she’s a card-carrying, Correista cultist, incapable of thought independent of her eternal President. The Correa cult of personality is like a soccer fan club where members still wear their team shirts religiously on game days in spite of their club’s 0-10 record due to the players’ staying out all nightr and getting drunk.

        1. Jajajajajaja

          I asked her to show me her Correa Cultist card and she claimed she didn’t have one. On the other hand, I’ve seen faulkner’s.

      2. Krugman is proof that Nobel prizes have diminished relevance. After all, it was Paul Krugman who infamously warned last November 9th the economic fallout of Trump’s election could be ‘the mother of all adverse effects’ on the still-fragile U.S. economy. ‘

        Since then, the Dow’s up 25% and then this morning USA Today reports: “U.S. unemployment claims fall to 222,000, lowest in 44 years”.

        1. Whenever I need a dose of feeling disdain, I’ll do one of two things, depending if I want right or left wing disdain. I’ll either watch Hannity on Fox or I’ll read Krugman at the NY Times.

  4. Pfffft. Another thinly veiled ode to the Correa cult of personality. Moreno has so far proven to be both pragmatic, independant and a man of his word. If voters had expected a Medvedev to Correa’s Putin then they are surely disappointed. Conciliation with all manners of the opposition was long overdue. AP’s electoral and governing power has been waning and the next election may spell its defeat. Now AP will likely split into two parties, Correa and Moreno camps. But that spells victory for Moreno who can form a coalition with one or more opposition parties and govern more effectively. Correistas will become politcal outlyers in the new order. But that doesn’t mean the ‘revolution’ is dead. Moreno did not suddently become a neo-liberal conservative. Rather he’s smart and honest enough to know that he needs to clean up some of the messes left behind including corruption which was swept under the rug to protect Correa’s image and to restore some of the deomocratic institutions that were corrupted by state for political gain. Attending to budget deficits before they get out of control is prudent, or would the author prefer they become critical before the government acts? Financial mismanagement is what has brought down leftist governments in Brazil and Argentina recently and is the hallmark of the corrupt and inept dictatorship in Venezuela. Moreno is doing good things and should be welcomed by all Ecuadorians. The split is AP was manufactured by Correa who is too vane to stay out of the political limelight and act like a retired president. Had he kept his mouth shut he would have been able to play his card more effectively after Moreno’s tenure was complete. After all, with a sucessful Moreno adminstration he could claim “that’s my boy!” and to a failed Moreno he could spout “did you miss me?” What’s his option now? Vote Correa for dog catcher? …. and BTW, why are Correistas so upset about Moreno abandoning the electronics payment scheme? After all it was a huge failure. Ecuador is cash economy hell bent on avoiding taxes. That’s why we gringo expats all have to carry fists full of small bills wherever we go!

    1. Two items, Kevin. That big key on the right side of your computer keyboard that has the word “Enter” on it, is actually a trick key. If you press it twice, it will create new paragraphs for you and I’m sure many people would enjoy seeing you master that key.

      Second, I don’t think Correa is vane at all. I do think he is vain, arrogant, thin skinned and egotistical.

      Great post. Carry on.

      1. 1,000,000 apologies for unintentional spelling and formatting errors. I swear, I made paragraphs (deftly applying the ‘enter’ key) but some wicked virus or digital demons sabotaged my essay. ….and, whoa! guess who just discovered the ‘edit’ feature!!!!!

      2. Today’s debate has been really good! We all agreed on something…that Correa is “vain, arrogant, thin-skinned and egostical”, and that Stoessel is biased. I personally hope Correismo ends up where it belongs
        (The toilet comes to mind). Thanks for the great read!!

  5. The reality is Moreno won’t put anything in Correa’s place. He’s clearly on the take, that’s why the only thing he has focused on for his first 6 months in power has been making sure Correa can’t come back after the voters inevitably throw him out next year when he tries to implement Lasso’s campaign promises. He didn’t even bother to ask the assembly for money for his housing program, the centerpiece of his campaign, but he’s going to spend $60 million in a referendum on 7 questions, 5 of which he could have passed through the assembly in a week, the other two nobody who voted for has asked for. It doesn’t take a political scientist to recognize what’s happening here. He’ll flee to Miami long before his term is up and he doesn’t care because he’s being well compensated for his efforts.

    1. So far not good, he is not implementing anything of Lasso.

      – new .10 import tax per gram of items.
      – new 0.5%-2% on withdrawing cash from your own bank account
      – 6 billions in new loans.
      – new law to reignite economy doesn’t have any suggestion of business community ( read Lasso ). Only increase in tax for various economical players.

      We need to look at what actually done. Can you let us know what is he implementing of Lasso’s campaign promises

      1. 1. No reelection.
        2. Repeal of the capital gains tax.
        3. Replacement of the entire CPCCS with one handpicked by him and accountable to nobody.

        All three were promised by Lasso repeatedly during his campaign. The first two were the cornerstones of his platform.

        And these are just the initial moves. Once Glas is removed from office at the end of December despite not being convicted (because he’s automatically removed after 90 days locked in jail on zero evidence), and once reelection is repealed, Moreno will have a free hand to do whatever he wants with his own handpicked CPCCS taking over the oversight authority currently granted only to the National Assembly. This opening volley is about making sure nobody from the previous regime can take his place when he’s inevitably run out of office.

        I’m not sure where you got the first two points in your list of items. Neither has been proposed by Moreno or anyone else. In addition, the new loans are nowhere near 6 billion net. A good portion of the new loans are to pay off older loans that were at higher interest rates. That means less debt, not more. Furthermore, the new law to reignite the economy was written by the business community, only some sectors are upset their suggestions didn’t get included so with typical Ecuadorian newspaper hyperbole, they claim everything is a conspiracy.

        Keep in mind, nobody voted for this platform. Nothing Moreno is proposing was offered in his campaign. He ran on one platform, saying whatever he needed to say to get the votes, and now he’s doing what’s going to get him paid. This is Lucio all over again. I suspect it will end with the same outcome . . . with the president fleeing into exile.

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