By José Hernández
Rafael Correa lurches from one blunder to another.
Responding to the latest corruption bombshells aimed at his administration, he appears visibly worried about the results of Sunday’s election but doesn’t say so. His fear was on display Saturday during his weekly sabatina in Guayaquil.
Correa continues to insist that Lenin Moreno, his Alianza País candidate, will win the presidency on the first ballot and even produced a poll to prove it. By his accounting, Moreno polls 43.7%, well ahead of conservative Guillermo Lasso with 21%, Cynthia Viteri with 16%, and Paco Moncayo with 9.3%. With such numbers, Moreno would avoid a run-off election.
But Correa’s rhetoric belies his public confidence, as well it should. In fact, an average of all the political polls publicly available, shows Moreno registering in the low 30s percentage-wise, well below the 40% needed for a first primary victory.
In recent weeks, Correa has been busy making promises to voters, including legalizing the land for 18,000 squatter families near Guayaquil, giving free housing to 236 families in Babahoyo, promising 13 new schools for El Carmen, and offering hefty raises to 15,000 public school teachers. He is also pressuring Alianza País mayors and prefects to promise more public works before election day.
He has also viciously attacked Lasso, Moreno’s biggest threat, claiming that 600,000 middle class Ecuadorians will pay more taxes if Lasso is elected. He also lashed out at Viteri and Moncayo and the other candidates, calling them a disgrace to Ecuador. He says that Lasso, a banker, only knows how to count money; that Viteri is only an expert at applying her make-up; that Moncayo is a has-been; and that Dalo Bucaram represents a family tradition of liars.
Correa is clearly out to destroy Moreno’s adversaries, ridiculing their proposals, hoping to plant fear in the electorate of what will happen if the opposition wins. Social programs will end, he suggests, spending on health and education will be decimated, disastrous free trade agreements will be enacted that will allow cheap merchandise from the U.S. to destroy Ecuadorian industry. To hear him, is reminiscent of Cristina Fernandez in Argentina when she made similar arguments in the face of evidence that her candidate, and eventual loser, was down in the polls.
Clearly, Correa does not radiate optimism and, far from supporting the notion that Moreno wins in the first round, all his actions suggest fear that the opposite will happen.
The same is true when it comes to the rising tide of Petroecuador and Odebrecht corruption charges. Correa pretends to believe that his word alone is enough to stop the dark wave that threatens to bury his administration. His strategy, it seems, is to hold the bad news at bay until Sunday, in the hope that Moreno wins in the first round. Until then, he denies everything. He even attacks his own brother, Fabricio, who has claimed that Odebrecht helped him in his first presidential campaign. It is the same approach he used with Pareja Yannuzzelli, the former energy minister who admits taking bribes on Petroecuador projects and who is now living in exile in Miami, charging that Correa himself is corrupt.
Correa’s defense is puerile and cynical. His brother says that Odebrecht gave money to Rafael’s campaign; he says no. His brother says Rafael met with the director of Odebrecht; he responds that he was not the treasurer of his campaign.
Like a broken record, in fact, Rafael insists his government is the one that expelled Odebrecht harshly when it discovered that the company was cheating on government contracts. Only when Odebrecht had repaid its malfeasance “to the last penny”, he says, did he allow it to work again in Ecuador. The problem is that Correa, the economist, was doing his own accounting and it makes no sense.
Then, Correa jumps out of the public procurement system, supposedly the best in all of the Americas (better than that of the United States, better, even, than Canada’s), to esoteric arguments to show that his government has clean hands despite the growing number of disgraced former officials now living in exile. Crooks such as Pareja Yannuzzelli infiltrated Correa’s “clean-hands” government and betrayed his trust, he says. How could he, Correa, know about the bribes and the off-shore bank accounts? He’s not a psychic, after all! For Correa, his explanation closes the topic. The sycophants in the auditorium, government and Aliazna País officials and true believers, applaud.
Thus does Correa confront the accusations of a decade of corruption. His response? Don’t believe any of it. It is all lies. Vote for Lenin Moreno.
José Hernández is a columnist for 4 Pelegatos, http://4pelagatos.com. The column was translated from the original Spanish.