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The decline and fall of Rafael Correa and why it’s such a shame that it’s happening this way

Few webcam users master the theatrical elements of on-camera presence.

Because of the camera’s in-your-face vantage point, subjects’ noses and mouths appear too big while bad lighting puts them either in shadow or provides a dentist’s view of stained incisors and chapped lips.

Almost always, there’s a goof-ball element to the homemade broadcasts, whether they appear on international tv news channels or in Skype calls to the kids back home in Indiana.

Such was the case Saturday when former president Rafael Correa, over-lit and too close to the camera, presented the first sabatina of his ex-presidency. Broadcast on Facebook from his apartment in Brussels, the event was aimed primarily at Correa’s dwindling troupe of Alianza País loyalists back in Quito, the message mostly a rehash of old Twitter attacks on President Lenin Moreno.


Gone was the professional production quality of his old presidential sabatinas, the congenial audience, the backdrop of the giant video screen, the bantering sidekick, the bands, the dancers, and the clowns.

It was just a pissed-off guy sitting in his spare bedroom talking to a computer.

Since Correa really had nothing new to report, watching his florid, distorted face reminded me of Ernest in his late 1980s and early 1990s movies (“Ernest Goes to Camp,” “Ernest Goes to School,” “Ernest Goes to Jail,” etc.)


What’s truly a shame is that Correa is ending his political career this way, full of rage, far away, a dab of paint on his nose. Although it is certainly an ending of his own making, it is still a shame.

For the first six years of his presidency, Rafael Correa was probably the most effective Ecuadorian president in 100 years. Battling the entrenched old guard and its colonial mentality, which he aptly referred to as the oligarchy, he modernized the country’s infrastructure, upgraded the national education and health care systems. He attacked poverty and crime not just with money, but with intelligently conceived programs that made Ecuador a leader in Latin America.

Most expats who knew the country before Correa, watched the transformation and were impressed and a transformed Ecuador attracted thousands of new expats.

Things changed during his second full term in office, however. The collapse of oil prices took a toll on the national budget and the government turned to the credit markets, particularly the Chinese government, to fill the gap. The first signs of corruption emerged within the government and Correa played damage control the only way he knows how, by attacking the messenger.

Happy days at Alianza Páis are no longer here.

More disturbingly, Correa’s control-freak tendencies and belief that he alone knew what was best for Ecuador became the driving force of his governance. With a super majority in the National Assembly willing to pass any legislation he put forward, he expanded the reach of the central government, restricted the role of local governments and civil society, slapped new regulations on business, and clamped down on personal freedoms.

Never known for refined social skills, Correa turned his aggression away from the oligarchy, where it had been effective, and toward those who disagreed with his big government policies, many of whom were former supporters. Ideas were replaced by ideology, action with shibboleths.

Today, as Lenin Moreno shapes a new government, relaxing many of the controls installed by Correa, the ex-president’s wounded but unsinkable ego veritably squeals in pain. Correa’s insults of Moreno, delivered via Twitter, of “traitor”, “liar”, “fraud”, “terrorist”, and “deceiver” have all the originality of junior high school boys bellowing at each other across the schoolyard, while their rapid-fire fury suggest a victim of Tourette Syndrome.

Even as the latest poll numbers show his popularity dropping like a rock, now more than 30 points below Moreno’s, Correa doesn’t know when to stop. The evidence is overwhelming that the public not only does not understand his arguments against Moreno, they don’t agree and they don’t care.

Moreno holds all the cards at this point and one that he may soon play could cut Correa the deepest, calling a national referendum to reverse Correa’s constitutional amendment allowing the indefinite re-election of the president, precluding a possible Correa return to the presidential palace. No amount of shrieks and wails from Correa and his gaggle of Alianza Páis devotees, who have come to resemble the followers of North Korea’s “dear leader” Kim Jong Un, can change the outcome.

Rafael Correa has played a transformational role in Ecuador’s history. He deserves credit for truly remarkable achievements. Today, he would serve the country and himself well by dialing back the racket.

Also read, The report card on Correa after eight years, by David Morrill.

David Morrill is editor of CuencaHighLife.

31 thoughts on “The decline and fall of Rafael Correa and why it’s such a shame that it’s happening this way

  1. >”It was just a pissed-off guy sitting in his spare bedroom talking to a computer.”
    OMGee – could this also be interpreted as “It was just a man whose humility did not call for a make-up crew nor fancy production crew because as usual, his message is key not the look of the messenger…” smh – didn’t know Correa was sitting for a Vogue cover…

    1. Humility and Correa don’t get along. I attended the same high school this guy did, and believe me, he sees himself as an emperor. His favorite play with his sister when they were children was that she kissed his hand everytime they met, just like Catholics do with the Pope. These days and because of his loose tongue, he is frustrated and out of control. The writer’s description of him couldn’t be more accurate.

    2. Based on your post it apparently could be by at least one person–you. I think David’s analysis is right on. It’s sad to see Correa tarnish an overall positive legacy with these latest antics. Reminds me of so many great athletes who refused to quit at the top of their game.

      1. “Reminds me of so many great athletes who refused to quit at the top of their game.”

        I get the analogy, Edd, but it’s far worse than an over the hill athlete trying to rekindle his glory days…

  2. Great commentary on webcams. My Skype friends keep asking me to turn on the camera and I tell them there’s no need for both of us to look stupid. David’s right that we all look like Ernest — even old presidents- when the camera goes on.

  3. The description of the webcam is spot on. I talked to my brother last week on Skype and he had his camera on. I honestly don’t remember anything he said but I was able to count 14 hairs sticking out of his nose.

  4. My wife and I got had a good laugh watching the first 20 minutes of this tirade and then we got bored. This was not presented as his spare bedroom. Correa actually tried to pass off this one-bedroom apartment as his new home in Belgium! Responding to reports of a mansion in Belgium he says “lets take a look at the mansion of the head of the mafia” and claimed this apartment is what him and his wife were living in; later describing it as something suitable for a couple of college students.

  5. Pretty soon, we’ll all have an opportunity to watch him try to worm out of the accusations coming his way when his corruption cronies start singing. His ego won’t allow him to remain silent.

  6. correa is pissed cuz he sees ecuador returning back to the oligarch system….rich richer poor poorer

      1. Your evidence? Who says? What about los banceros derechistas? Always have been the richest oligarchs of all…

  7. Excellent article. I guess the author isn’t too worried about Correa launching a defamation lawsuit against him from Belgium. I wonder if that is due to the change in the political climate and the respect Moreno has shown for indpendent media.

  8. well, you forgot all about his pillaging. that is what Ecuadorians are pissed off about, what he will ultimately be remember for. if he spent 10 dollars on infrastructure, more than half went into his pocket (and friends’ of course). his behavior always belied his disrespect for limits, law. it was always obvious, he was simply able to camouflage it through “control”. he left the country with fantasies of more “control”. he has no shame. any appearance of good for his country he authored, was an excuse, a cover up for his true objective, and it was always obvious, once you started looking. how’s that tranvia working out? also, your mention of “colonial mentality” is cute.

  9. Whats sad is that anyone in Ecuador still supports this man, based on his personality and little else…sad for the poor who have suffered under his mega corruption and foolish socialist policies, , and his demogoguery, pro corruption LIES that Lenin is now having to expose. The fact he is in Belgium is enough evidence he cared nothing for this country, and his legacy is more akin to his drug dealing father than anything else.

  10. Excellent article with accurate and non partisan politcal analysis. My Ecuadorian wife is one of those dwindling militant Correistas. Nothing he can say or do is wrong. She went to the anti-Moreno “Traidor” rally in Quito last week and nobody was there.

    1. Kevin – Yeah, weird, huh? What part is it of we humans that locks on to some belief like this and rides it into oblivion? I look back on my life and clearly see the strange ideas and beliefs I locked on to, and I shake my head at myself…

  11. Those reading articles like this need to be very careful. The U.S. has and continues to support subversive activities against any Politician or ideology that threatens them. They infiltrate and try to stir things up. Correa stood up for Ecuador and could not be bullied. Moreno, will be a leader the U.S. will support but at what price will the poor suffer.

  12. Right on, DM. It’s not often that these pages afford us truth, insight and good writing all in the same piece.

  13. Before he was “Ernest”, the guy who played him, the late comic actor Jim Varney, was a classically trained Shakespearean actor. True.

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