Ecuador’s Wise Wily Correa
Even if he does not stand for re-election, the president may still run the country
UNTIL last week Ecuadoreans thought they knew what their president, Rafael Correa, was planning. At his bidding, the National Assembly would approve a package of constitutional reforms in December, overriding doubts about their legality and popular demands for a referendum. Mr Correa would then exploit one of those changes—an end to term limits—to run for re-election in 2017.
Now he has shaken that assumption. On November 13th he said that anyone currently in office who has already served two terms, including himself, should not be allowed to run in the next election. The ending of term limits and other constitutional reforms, which boost the powers of the presidency, will go ahead, but Mr Correa may not be in office to exercise them. That has prompted a frenzy of speculation about what Ecuador’s wily left-wing president really has in mind. The most popular theory is that he intends to hand over the presidency, Vladimir Putin-style, to an ally, who would carry out his wishes and make way for him to return to office in 2021. He has singled out Lenín Moreno, a former vice-president, as a possible successor.
Mr Correa may have changed his plans because he prefers not to be in charge at a time of economic weakness. Along with other South American countries, Ecuador is suffering from the end of the global commodities boom. The IMF expects GDP to shrink by 0.6% this year and to grow by a scant 0.1% in 2016. After nine spendthrift budgets under Mr Correa, the government cannot afford a fiscal stimulus. He may prefer to let a surrogate deal with the unpleasantness that lies ahead.
If that is the plan, it is risky. One danger for Mr Correa is that his stand-in will not be as pliant as he hopes. Mr Moreno, who shares his ideology but is more pragmatic, is popular in his own right. A new centre-left party, Democracia Sí, is trying to recruit him as its presidential candidate.
Then there is the risk that Mr Correa’s handpicked candidate will lose. Although no opposition politician looks like a strong challenger, economic weakness could help one emerge, warns Luis Verdesoto, a political scientist. Another worry is that Mr Correa’s party, Alianza País, will lose its majority in the legislature, rendering the next president a lame duck, a problem that has bedevilled governments since democracy was restored in 1979. Without Mr Correa to lead it, the party fears decimation. His leadership “must continue”, demanded Gabriela Rivadeneira, the legislature’s president.
A weakened presidency is not what Mr Correa has in mind. Since 2011 he has in effect controlled the judiciary. The proposed constitutional changes would strip the office of the comptroller-general of some of its powers to audit government finances. Carlos Pólit, who now holds the office and does not often openly defy Mr Correa, calls the plan a “step backwards”. Under the amended constitution, communications would be a “public service”, giving the government the power further to restrict press freedoms, which have already been curtailed. The changes would also allow it to deploy the military to “complement” the police in fighting crime, without declaring a state of emergency.
In recent protests against the constitutional reforms and planned tax rises, police and soldiers beat and arbitrarily arrested dozens of unarmed people, alleges Human Rights Watch, an NGO based in the United States. The authorities are not properly investigating these reports, the group says. The government’s critics fear that the new constitutional provisions will encourage such abuses. The government insists it was the protesters who behaved violently.
Polls show that 80% of Ecuadoreans want the amendments put to a referendum, which suggests that they would be voted down. The pliant constitutional court has ruled that a referendum is unnecessary. Mr Correa has left Ecuadoreans guessing whether he will voluntarily move out of the Carondelet Palace in 2017. Few doubt he will remain the most powerful person in the country.
Source: The Economist
Correa Not Running for 2017 Reelection, PAIS Alliance Supports Him
Quito, Nov 19 (Prensa Latina) The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, thanked today the support of PAIS Alliance”s legislators for his decision of not running for a third term in 2017, and said that another candidate could beat the opposition.
‘I am very proud of my comrades in the Assembly. Unhesitatingly supported the amend, so those who are in office for two consecutive periods may not be re-elected in 2017’, wrote the president this Thursday in a series of tweets on his Tweeter account.
Correa, who proposed to include this clause in the package of constitutional amendments, noted that was even harder that the PAIS Alliance lawmakers accepted his decision of not running as a candidate in the presidential elections of 2017.
After thanking for their trust, the president reiterated that with the ‘fragmentation, lack of ambition and proposals of the opposition’, he has no doubts about the continuity of the Citizen Revolution, the political project launched by his government in January 2007.
Fortunately, again, I am convinced that in 2017 one of the Revolution candidates will beat the opposition, he said.
In this regard, he mentioned the former vice president Lenin Moreno, vice president Jorge Glas, Interior Minister Jose Serrano, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ricardo Patino, the executive secretary of PAIS Alliance and the president of the National Assembly, Doris Soliz and Gabriela Rivadeneira, respectively, as possible candidates to replace him.
He also noted that the opposition knows that it will lose the presidential election, so it will try, he said, to regain the parliamentary majority, and from there, will try to blackmail and obstruct the government.
The fate is in our hands. However, if something goes wrong, their fear of Correa’s return, will make them behave decently and think about the country, he added.
The president also criticized the leadership of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), which for several months has organized protests against the government, and called for an uprising in early December in protest against indefinite reelection and other proposals for constitutional amendments.
CONAIE is burying the indigenous movement, which was a sign of hope for us all, Correa said.
Yesterday, PAIS Alliance agreed to respect the president’s decision, and include a provision, regarding the amendment about the indefinite reelection, so it can be implemented from May 24, 2017, the same day that the new president of Ecuador would start his mandate.
Source: Prensa Latina
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.