In the presidential run-off election that will take place on 11 April, Ecuadorians face the choice between betting on a progressive candidate or having to put up with four years of a business oriented government, linked to finance and the economic powers that be, national and international.

By Javier Tolcachier

Although the binary vision is usually reductionist and can give rise to the feeling of extortion, it is clear that at this point it is a choice between heads and tails. And literally, the “tails” option, that of the right, the banks and social Christianity, represented by Guillermo Lasso, a member of Opus Dei, is that of those who do not show their real face.

The tricks of Lasso’s campaign advisor, Jaime Durán Barba, are well known in this region, and his service record speaks clearly of the interests he tends to serve. In the 1990s, he was an advisor in Colombia to the Liberal Alternative Party led by the drug trafficker Pablo Escobar Gaviria. He was then Secretary of Public Administration in Ecuador during the presidency of the neo-liberal Jamil Mahuad, under whose mandate the dramatic “bank holiday” took place, in which the savings of thousands of Ecuadorian families vanished. Guillermo Lasso was then Governor of Guayas, a position he obtained as a bonus for the funds contributed to Mahuad’s campaign.[1] Durán Barba also worked on the campaign of right-wing businessman Álvaro Noboa and managed in Argentina the campaigns for head of government and president of another businessman, Mauricio Macri, who was defeated in 2019 by a broad popular coalition. Currently, in view of the meagre result (just under 20%) obtained by Lasso in the first round, he was offered the post of campaign consultant to try to reverse his definitive failure.

The usual strategy, also used on this occasion, is to try to disguise the anti-popular as popular, concealing the real political intentions of their principals through empty slogans, an omen of the hollowing out of the public sector they defend. What is certain is that, even if the bench is dressed up as a saw, the bench remains. Lasso, like Macri, is an attempt to go back 30 years, to return to the 90s, to expand private business from the public administration by alienating precious resources that belong to the common people.

Beyond the façade, and with the spotlights and music turned off, the governments of the right produce direct damage to the majorities, destroying in a short time with their privatising programmes what took a long time to build, reducing the supply and quality of public services in health, education and culture, among many others, to open the doors to their commodification.

The falsification of Lasso’s real political identity goes hand in hand with a dirty and degrading campaign. For example, using migrants begging for alms, to suggest that kind of image of the future of Ecuador, in the event that Andrés Aráuz, candidate of the Union for Hope (UNES), wins the presidency.

The face of progressivism is a young face, representing a symbol of replacement and renewal of the previous process of the Citizens’ Revolution, led at the time by former president Rafael Correa, banned through persecution and a flawed judicial conviction, in the same style as the set-up against former Brazilian president Lula da Silva. These prosecutions are invariably supported by the US Department of Justice through various programmes and are aimed at preventing the election of popular leaders who are reluctant to obey the neo-colonial mandates of the North.

Significance of the choices in terms of foreign policy and geopolitics

Beyond the fact that the people of Ecuador are, quite rightly, primarily interested in the direct consequences of a government plan for their own destiny in a world of total interconnection, the orientation of foreign policy is by no means indifferent.

Lasso represents a direct submission to the US plan of domination, which means the Lima Group, systematic aggression against Venezuela, against Cuba, partnership with the criminal Colombian government, and a distancing from sovereignty and socially meaningful regional integration. Its political stance implies a tying of hands in the geopolitical struggle of the United States against China and Russia, embodies the return of Ecuador to the path of repression against the people and the re-militarisation already undertaken by the current Moreno misgovernment, anticipates the very possible installation on national territory of military and security forces of the United States or Israel. In the worst case, automatic alignment means participating in dangerous armed confrontations.

On the other hand, an Aráuz government will surely join the progressive bloc whose central axis are Alberto Fernández, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and also Luis Arce, presidents of Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia respectively (the latter a hinge towards the ALBA-TCP countries), becoming a factor for peace in the region, acting as a defender of the self-determination of peoples, contrary to the geopolitical interference of external powers.

Likewise, a victory for Aráuz in the second round, in addition to making the recompositing of UNASUR and the progressive recovery of regional integration with a sense of sovereignty possible almost immediately, could strengthen other progressive actors and movements in the region, such as Verónika Mendoza, a left-wing Andean woman, if she manages to reach the second round in Peru. The same could happen with the independent candidacies and left-wing parties in Chile, in the now postponed constituent elections and the presidential elections scheduled for 21 November, as well as with the enormous possibility of the Honduran people to shake off the fraudulent regime of Juan Orlando Hernández in the contest to be held a week later.

A result favourable to progressivism in the second round in Ecuador would encourage the popular mobilisations underway in Paraguay, Haiti and Guatemala, strengthen the hopes of the Unity Pact in Colombia to defeat the business and media cartel in May next year, whose executing arm is the political faction led by Álvaro Uribe, and would even help the image of the possible return to power of a popular unity bloc in Brazil.

In short, the very possible triumph of Andrés Aráuz would imply a strong impulse to the reversal of the second neoliberal wave produced by the induced wear and tear of the popular projects initiated in the first decade of the century.

In terms of international relations, the reconstitution of a progressive bloc on the left would constitute a clear advance towards multilateralism, opening up space for subordinated nations and moving away from confrontational bipolarity. The paradox is that today, “binary” elections, in which the people choose between heterogeneous popular alliances or pro-business sectors, can change geopolitics by making it possible to abandon, in the case of the defeat of the latter, the logic of the Cold War between two sides.

From rejection to the construction of a different world

The extent of the protest vote in the first round of the election in Ecuador was expressed in significant abstention, a high percentage of invalid or blank votes, and the dispersion of almost half of the affirmative votes. Undoubtedly, beyond any electoral strategy, the phenomenon merits understanding, reflection, updating and the need to deepen the humanist dimension of the left and progressivism in our region.

This trend, also present in the various electoral contests in other places, is a clamour against the distance between the political superstructure and the real concerns of the people, it is a rebellion against the frequent inability of governments to listen and dialogue, against the difficulties of opening their minds and hearts to the new times, to the new rights and the new way of constructing politics demanded by young people, women, indigenous and Afro-descendant sectors, the main discriminated sectors of this region that is unable to break away from its colonial matrix.

The term “return to better” usually alludes to this transformation of the progressive project, that is, to undertake new horizons and demands in order to initiate a virtuous period of government that takes the best of the previous cycle and elevates it within the framework of an evolutionary spiral.

As has already been demonstrated, goodwill or promises will not be enough. The mobilised, participatory and critical accompaniment of the populations is undoubtedly an essential condition for this achievement.

Andrés Aráuz, who has just turned 36, is part of a generation of change, not only because of his age, but also because of the situation in which judicial and media persecution, anti-democratic proscription and, in other cases, biological death, have placed Latin American leaders. This, together with criticism from previously allied sectors, put progressivism and the left in a situation of renewal, not only in terms of electoral faces, but also in terms of incorporating new contents that are now part of the agenda of the new global sensibility.

Issues such as gender parity, feminisms, and the right of women not to be treated as reproduction machines; the strong reconversion towards policies of greater environmental balance; the valuing of cultural diversity and the effective construction of plurinationality; the affirmation of sex-affective diversity and new family forms; participatory and real democracy; the decentralisation of power; the commitment to new sovereign technologies and critical digital literacy; the full inclusion of the new generations and non-violence as a state policy, are pending issues that exist to varying degrees and which are becoming increasingly important on the agenda of all progressive governments.

Undoubtedly, today, in the face of an enormous systemic crisis, made starkly evident by the health emergency of the pandemic, the demands for transformation are greater. In this new cycle, the popular mandate demands from progressive governments not only the continuity but also the rapid deepening of the trend towards equality of rights and opportunities in education, health and the possibilities of growing collective well-being. Welfare for which, in the current context, the very moderate redistribution of the previous social product, excessively respectful of the unjust status quo of capitalist hyper-concentration, will not be enough.

In practice, future popular governments, if they want to fully comply with the mandate entrusted by the ballot box, will have to include structural reforms in the economic and tax system and in the extractivist export matrix without added value, also making possible the establishment of a revolutionary unconditional universal basic income, which will allow us to throw off the yoke of dependencies, of the condemnation of work for mere subsistence and favours the development of capacities and potentialities not recognised by the current mercantilism.

The same must happen with the resolute democratisation of the media, partially initiated by some popular governments but which did not manage to overcome the impediments imposed by the real power of the media monopoly… to which we must now add the challenge of facing the threats of capture of all social activity by monopolistic digital companies.

We need to decolonise not only outwardly, but also inwardly, to reclaim the vitality and richness of all our cultures, integrating their aspirations within a framework of creative and dynamic convergence.

Likewise, the total depatriarchalizing of leadership and political structures, and above all, of the daily violent behaviour against our fellow women, is an inescapable moral imperative.

In line with these political aspirations, the transformation of personal and social consciences must move forward, developing a sense of coherence that is not based on consumerism, appropriation of objects, individualism or competition, but on sisterhood, solidarity, collaboration and help.

Little by little, the need to aim at building an inclusive community spirit of diversity, not based on difference, but around a true, indisputable and firm shared parameter, capable of establishing the basis for a more harmonious future on this planet, in which all cultures are already interconnected, will become more and more visible. This value is the recognition of our common humanity.

The outcome of the second round in Ecuador may open the doors to the renewal and expansion of dreams, but it may also become a source of regression and legitimisation of a recurring cycle of nightmares. We trust that good knowledge, which unites the heart with the head, will help to overcome previous misunderstandings and guide Ecuadorians to the best of paths.

(*) Javier Tolcachier is a researcher at the World Centre for Humanist Studies and a communicator at the international news agency Pressenza.

1] Guillermo Lasso Mendoza. CIDOB.