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Does Rafael Correa really believe that Ecuador is a country of idiots?

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.

President Rafael Correa

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.

Pareja Yannuzzelli taking a lie detector test in Miami.

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.

  • zoltan strigan

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    Mark Weisbrot’s columns from CEPR

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    Ecuadorian Opposition Tries to Play “Corruption” Card to Swing Election

    by Mark Weisbrot

    This article was published by The Hill on February 16, 2017. If anyone wishes to reprint it, please let us know by replying to this message. If this email was forwarded to you, subscribe to CEPR’s email lists here.

    In
    a last ditch move to bring down the leading candidate in Ecuador’s
    February 19 (Sunday) presidential election, Lenin Moreno, the
    opposition is slinging charges of corruption at his running mate. Moreno
    is a former vice president to Ecuador’s current President Rafael
    Correa and his Alianza PAIS party, who have governed Ecuador over the
    past decade.

    Before
    looking at the specifics, it is worth noting that this has become the
    main tactic of right-wing parties in Latin America for several years
    now, as they struggle to win back much of Latin America, and especially
    South America, which elected and re-elected many left governments in
    the 21st century (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela,
    Uruguay, Paraguay, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua). The strategy has
    potential because most of the media are an opposition force
    against the left governments, and can use their control over most of
    the means of communication accordingly. The right can also often count
    on help from the international media — most of which has a tendency to
    side with Washington against these same governments.

    The
    Brazilian media deployed the corruption meme to successfully topple
    President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil last year, even though she was not
    charged with any corruption and committed no
    impeachable offense. In Argentina, former President Cristina Kirchner,
    along with her finance minister and head of the Central Bank have been
    indicted for something that was nothing more than a normal central bank operation, with no corruption or illegality whatsoever.

    In
    Ecuador, which gets most of its government revenue and foreign
    exchange from oil, a former minister of hydrocarbons and head of the
    state oil company (Petroecuador) Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli, has come forth
    as accuser of Jorge Glas, the current vice presidential candidate. He
    claims that Glas knew about the corruption that took place at
    Petroecuador. On that basis, the government’s opponents, including most
    of the media, hope to capitalize on enough free-floating cynicism to
    swing the election against the governing party.

    One
    problem is that the witness himself is a fugitive from justice, having
    fled the country in September. Prosecutors have charged him with
    taking at least $1 million in bribes and depositing them in an offshore
    account. He has confessed to wrongdoing and pleaded with President
    Correa for clemency for himself and his son, who is also accused of
    having received some of the bribe money.

    Another
    problem for the case against the government is that President Correa
    has taken a hard line against corruption, including against Pareja,
    rejecting Pareja’s plea for clemency.. Also, by campaigning against the
    government, Pareja greatly increases his chances that the will not be
    extradited to Ecuador from the United States.

    The Ecuadorian government is currently promoting one of the biggest attacks ever on corruption in the hemisphere, with a referendum
    on the ballot this Sunday that takes aim at tax havens. This is
    exactly where this type of money stolen from the citizenry, as well as
    other illegal capital flight, ends up. The ballot initiative is
    actually quite creative: recognizing that no government can outlaw
    these tax havens in places like the Cayman Islands or Switzerland, it
    instead seeks to prohibit anyone who uses them from running for or
    holding public office. Since tax havens are an essential part of almost
    any serious bribery or theft in countries like Ecuador, no government
    that wanted to profit from or even tolerate corruption would promote
    such legislation. The Ecuadorian government has even taken this initiative
    to the United Nations, in an effort to get other countries to follow
    suit and therefore make it easier for all to reduce corruption and
    illegal capital flows.

    Of
    course, the choice for voters in any country is not going include a
    government that is completely free from corruption. Look at the United
    States, a rich country with an eroding but still comparatively
    well-developed rule of law. We have a system of legalized bribery
    whereby corporations and billionaires can have massive influence on
    policy through campaign contributions. In addition, we have deferred
    bribes to government officials that clearly affect their decisions while
    in office. The list of such people is so long that President Obama sought to
    pass a very unpopular commercial agreement, the TPP (Trans-Pacific
    Partnership), in the lame duck session of Congress because the swing
    votes were representatives who would be leaving in a few months to work
    for lobbying firms.

    The
    choice for voters in Ecuador is going to be about which party or
    candidate is going to reduce corruption. In Ecuador, that is pretty
    clear. The leading opposition candidate, Guillermo Lasso, is a big
    Ecuadorian banker, who also has banking interests
    in Panama, one of the largest centers for illegal capital flows in the
    hemisphere. The next leading candidate, the right-wing former
    congresswoman Cynthia Viteri, wants to eliminate
    taxes on capital flight. These candidates transparently represent the
    banks who used to run the country before Correa was elected. To think
    that they would reduce corruption is like believing that Donald Trump’s
    Goldman Sachs appointees and advisers are there to “drain the swamp” in
    Washington.

    Of course most people in Ecuador are more concerned with their basic needs and well-being, and here the current government has delivered quite
    a bit over the last decade. The Correa government has doubled social
    spending as a percent of GDP, and more than doubled public investment.
    Access to health care, education, electricity, as well as roads and
    other infrastructure has greatly increased; while inequality has been
    substantially reduced. Incomes have grown much faster than they did over
    the previous quarter century, and the poverty rate has been reduced by
    38 percent.

    Corruption
    is not most people’s primary concern, but the opposition and its media
    would like to make it that way. After all, what else do they have to
    offer?

    Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the new book Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

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    • Jim Moury

      Thank you ! I also have been sharing this article. It is far better journalism than this ad hom/ad hoc hatchet piece I just read. This is the kind of writing that de legitimizes factual journalism. In the US our government is now calling them “alternative facts”. Don’t fall for it. All men are fallible, including Carrera, but the proof is in the pudding. If Ecuadorians let the bankers take control it will be the beginning of the end. They answer to no one but their stockholders.

  • zoltan strigan

    What Wikileaks Docs Say About Ecuador’s Presidential Candidates

    Ecuador’s 2017 presidential candidates | Photo: TeleSUR

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    Published 16 February 2017

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    In
    the final days of Ecuador’s presidential campaign, WikiLeaks
    republishes U.S. diplomatic cables related to the three major
    candidates.

    As Ecuador’s leading
    presidential candidate of the governing Alianza Pais party, Lenin
    Moreno, wrapped up his campaign with a massive rally in the nation’s
    capital, Quito, on Wednesday, WikiLeaks tweeted out portions of the U.S.
    diplomatic cables related to the three major candidates in Sunday’s
    election.

    RELATED:

    Ecuador Decides: 2017 General Elections

    While the documents offer little new information, they do offer
    glimpses of U.S. government assessments of each candidate, and perhaps,
    more revealingly, show the long and close relationship between the two
    most prominent right-wing candidates and the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador.

    Cynthia Viteri: “Eager to enlist our sympathy”

    By far, the greatest number of cables relate to the Social Christian Party or PSC candidate Cynthia Viteri, who is running on a platform that includes establishing tax-free zones along Ecuador’s northern and southern borders.

    Viteri is mentioned
    in a September 2006 memo documenting a meeting she requested with the
    U.S. ambassador in Quito during that year’s election campaign, in which
    she eventually came a distant fourth to the eventual winner, current
    President Rafael Correa.

    The cable remarks that Viteri was “clearly eager to enlist our sympathy,” by highlighting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s support for then-candidate Correa.

    The same memo points out that while publicly equivocal about her
    support for a proposed free trade agreement with the U.S., she was much
    more enthusiastic in private discussions with the U.S ambassador.

    However, the memo
    pointedly notes that “By implicitly appealing to us to counter Correa’s
    electoral threat,” she was “privately revealing a lack of conviction
    that (her) private beliefs will appeal to voters.”

    An earlier U.S.
    assessment of Viteri’s candidacy was skeptical of her prospects noting
    that “she suffers from her close association with (PSC) party boss Febres Cordero,” who presided over massive human rights abuses while he was president of Ecuador in the 1980’s.

    ANALYSIS:

    Ecuador’s Citizens’ Revolution: Retaking Power from the Old Elites

    Several 2008 memos — both during and after the successful referendum
    to adopt Ecuador’s ground-breaking constitution — document her regular
    contacts and political consultations with the U.S consulate in
    Guayaquil, the country’s financial capital.

    These memos record
    Viteri’s reports to the U.S. consul general that she was trying to
    quietly organize opposition to the constitution based on issues of
    “abortion and gay marriage”
    because she acknowledged that her party, in the words of the PSC
    president, “was so discredited that (openly) campaigning for the ‘no’
    vote would be a ‘Christmas present for Correa.'”

    The memos, which
    describe Viteri as “politically astute,” also reports that “Correa has
    ably captured the aspirations of the Ecuadorean people for a more just
    and prosperous country,” and that for Ecuadoreans, Viteri’s “No” vote
    campaign “looks like a step backward to the politics of past.”

    Those same 2008
    reports say that Viteri had told U.S. political officers that “her PSC
    past and poor track record in the last elections make it unlikely that
    she could beat the popular president (Correa)” and that she “will
    therefore probably focus on securing a seat in congress and positioning
    herself for a presidential campaign when her chances are better.”

    Viteri subsequently won a seat in Ecuador’s National Assembly and is currently running a distant third behind Correa’s former vice president, Lenin Moreno.

    Guillermo Lasso: “Numerous contacts”

    While former banker Guillermo Lasso’s previous appearances in the Cablegate memos are well-documented, the re-released reports show that Lasso was a regular visitor to and political consultant for U.S. officials in Ecuador.

    References to Lasso
    are found in confidential reports as far back as 2005, where political
    officers who were part of the U.S. mission in Ecuador sought out his
    assessments of then-President Alfredo Palacio and his finance minister, Rafael Correa.

    In summarizing the
    assessments of Correa from “numerous contacts,” of which the memo only
    names Lasso, the report concludes on a threatening note:
    “We have heard from various contacts a similar refrain: Correa will not
    be taught, he will have to learn for himself, and at what cost to
    Ecuador?”

    Lenin Moreno: “Genuine commitment to making a positive difference”

    Leading presidential candidate Lenin Moreno makes only two appearances in the cables, yet the tone is noticeably different.

    The first mention is a
    report on Moreno’s public introduction as Correa’s running mate in the
    2006 elections and notes that he “has published ten books on philosophy
    and humor, including a book of jokes. He reportedly enjoys painting,
    swimming, singing, and playing guitar with his wife and three daughters
    in Quito.”

    RELATED:

    Marking 10 Years Since Ecuador’s ‘Outlaws’ Ousted a President

    On a more political note, the memo highlights Moreno’s “active and
    positive ties” with the grassroots “forajido” movement in Quito, which
    helped organize the popular uprising that toppled President Palacio
    after his shift to the right in 2005.

    The only other
    mention of Moreno is a report on a “courtesy visit” the U.S. ambassador
    paid to the then-newly-elected vice president in his office on Jan 19,
    2007.

    This memo repeatedly
    notes Moreno’s “genuine commitment to making a positive difference,”
    saying that during the meeting he “conveyed a sincere desire to improve
    coordination of social programs, his core interest and assignment.”

    The report effusively describes his sense of humor, and the warm and
    welcoming attitude he conveyed during the meeting, saying that “Moreno
    conveys a mature, serene demeanor and a genuine commitment to making a
    positive difference for his country.”

    The memo explicitly
    notes that while Moreno was much more positive about Ecuador’s potential
    relationship with the U.S. than the notably anti-imperialist Correa, he still “seems to enjoy good access and to have developed (Correa´s) respect.”

    The report
    highlighted that Moreno “spoke with passion about the need to attend
    better to the country’s most disadvantaged populations,” and also
    “underscored the importance of the fight against corruption.”

    The memo concludes
    that the U.S. hoped Moreno would be a “moderating influence” on Correa
    and a potential “conduit for political messages that may be difficult to
    deliver directly” to Correa himself.

  • alejoeisabel

    For the oligarchic opposition in Ecuador to accuse President Correa of corruption is the pot calling the kettle black. They propose NOTHING. However, Lasso proposes for Ecuador return to vassalage to the United States. Independence and sovereignty is difficult to achieve when a venal oligarchy eagerly engages in treachery. Ten years of the Citizens Revolution is not enough to change a venal political culture that has existed for centuries. President Correa began the change, and its up to the people of Ecuador to battle to the death to continue this noble and almost impossible to achieve.
    A message to fellow compatriots in Ecuador. The last time a large group of Americans immigrated to Latin America was in the 1830’s to the northern Mexican state of Texas. The Mexican government did the outrageous; they outlawed slavery; thus infringing in the Anglo’s democratic freedom of enslaving Afro descendent Americans. Thus our heritage.