Ecuador: Rafael Correa and the change of epochs

correa[Translation of a column from Carta Maior of São Paulo for November 21, 2013. See original here.]

by Emir Sader

As soon as he was elected in 2007, Rafael Correa declared that Ecuador was joining the departure from the long dark night of neoliberalism and that it was a matter not just of an epoch of change but of a change of epochs. After having five successive presidents brought down by popular mobilizations, Ecuador, with the support of immense popular mobilizations, was choosing a young economist to lead the country.

“Policies that could be sustained on the basis of deceit and anti-democratic attitudes on the part of their beneficiaries, with the total support of multilateral organizations, who disguised a simple ideology as science,” thus Correa characterized the neoliberal politics that had dominated the entire continent for three decades. In effect, what characterized these policies was that “they benefited big capital and above all finance capital.”

In Ecuador, after a serious crisis that the country experienced in 1999 as a result of policies of deregulating the circulation of capital, there was a serious crisis of finance that destroyed the national currency and the conclusion of neoliberalism was that the problem was having a national currency. And in 2000 Ecuador did away with its national currency, replacing it with the dollar.

In parallel with this, the state and politics were demonized and replaced with the market and the technicians, who were supposedly neutral. “And so economists, technocrats, were elevated to the high priesthood, and that is one of the gravest errors that can be committed; decisions have to be made by political men, with a broad vision; in other words, don’t place too much importance on economists, who have only a partial vision of things.”

Bureaucrats, from within the country or without, would meet for three days in some five-star hotel to decide what was good and what was bad for our countries, “they made a diagnosis,” they issued solutions, “because we were fools and they were enlightened.” They would fail and then they would organize another seminar, for three days in the same five-star hotel, to examine why they had failed and to try again. “In the end, they were not the ones to pay for the consequences of their mistakes, we were the ones that paid.”

Correa affirms that he is convinced that “public policy decisions should be made by political women and men, with a broad, inclusive vision and with democratic legitimacy, fully responsible for their acts, in the light of day and not in the sumptuous offices of multilateral organizations.”

It so happens that the years when the recessions and depressions that were to affect countries like the US, Great Britain and France, among others, began were the moments of greatest profitability for speculative capital. Predictions that free trade would accelerate economic growth were belied head-on by concrete reality.

Latin America and all the countries of the global south were to feel the effects of these policies on commerce as a reduction in the demand for basic goods and because of remittances, without a counterpart of the north’s profits. And on capital, because of the repatriation of the astronomical resources required by the recovery plans proposed by the governments of the north.

But the political difference is that “the Left is not in the minority today” in Latin America. It often seems that “the Left is used to being in the opposition and does not understand, from the executive, that once in power we have to govern and we have to produce the means to govern and often our own comrades on the Left seem to be our principal opponents, they hold on to that dynamic, I insist, from when we were the minority and we had neoliberal governments, sold-out governments.”

“This is an important point to reflect on: the pragmatism that ought to be a part of the new Left,” Correa emphasizes. “As Pepe Mujica used to say, this dear friend, the president of Uruguay, ‘This all-or-nothing Left is the best ally of the status quo’ because if we want all or nothing, we will end up with nothing, you can be sure of that…”

To win elections in Latin America, as in almost all parts of the world, even the United States, is not to win the power, it is to win part of the power. The real powers are still alive: the economic powers, the social powers, the informational powers, “that terrible adversary of the progressive governments of Latin America: communications companies that take the place of the rightist parties in decline, that do politics blatantly and that try to destabilize and conspire daily.” That power is very much alive, together with religious power and international intervention.

But there is a resurgence of the Left in our region, which represents at the same time a resurgence and an awakening of our peoples. “But we should be a new Left, a Left that does not repeat the mistakes of the traditional Left which we need to acknowledge; we have to be self-critical. The word ‘revisionist’ was demonized in the past but we have to revise ourselves from day to day, to invent ourselves from day to day. That is what 21st century socialism is seeking, the socialism of right living that we practice in Ecuador.”

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