Photo: Andrés Arauz
The final week of campaigning in Ecuador’s presidential election — a contest that has profound significance for the left throughout Latin America — has begun. Progressive economist Andrés Arauz is in a strong position to be the winner of the April 11 vote. Opinion polls consistently show Arauz with an edge over competitor Guillermo Lasso, an ultra-wealthy, conservative banker. Arauz’s victory would be a strong popular rebuke of the right wing as represented by Lasso and current president Lenín Moreno. It would also mark a return to power for the Citizens’ Revolution launched by former president Rafael Correa.
During his 10 years as president from 2007 to 2017, Correa oversaw a massive decrease in poverty, the nationalization of resources, and rapid minimum wage increases. Billions of dollars were invested in education, universal healthcare and infrastructure programs. Correa also canceled Ecuador’s debt with the International Monetary Fund during his first year in office. In 2009, the Ecuadorian government disbanded the U.S. military base in the city of Manta, with Correa remarking that he might reconsider if the United States would reciprocate with an Ecuadorian military outpost in Miami.
Moreno’s presidency attempted to reverse these gains, but was met with fierce resistance from the outset. As Moreno attempted to enforce an austerity package and gut the public sector to secure a $4.2 billion IMF loan, a massive uprising forced the government to flee Quito and scrap most of the deal. Moreno has successfully forced a number of reforms and cuts to the public sector, but it has cost the administration greatly. Moreno’s approval rating is now in the single digits.
To keep the widely popular movement from regaining power, the Moreno administration has waged a vicious crackdown on Correismo and progressivism. This included bringing dozens of unsubstantiated corruption charges against Correa, banning Arauz’s political party from participating, and barring left-wing candidates from even using images of Correa in their campaign materials.
None of this has dissuaded Arauz and the Correistas. As in Bolivia, Ecuador now has a strong, organized left with a legacy of using the country’s resources to secure immediate, material gains for the poorest sectors of society. The 2019 uprisings nearly toppled the right-wing government to stop neoliberal austerity measures. Now, the strength of the street movement has pivoted back into the strength of the electoral movement. The Moreno administration has made it difficult for the Correistas to campaign, but the working class has made it impossible for the Moreno administration to either fully implement its anti-worker agenda or stop the Citizens’ Revolution from organizing.
There are fears that Guillermo Lasso will attempt to retain power relying on election interference by the United States and its client states. Correa warned in December that “[the right] are really desperate. They are capable of anything, because for them the worst thing that can happen is that we win. Because they know that they will have to face justice.” Moreno spent the weeks before the election holding a series of meetings with U.S. “national security” figures, the director of the IMF, U.S. senators, and the secretary general of the Organization of American States, which helped instigate the 2019 coup in Bolivia.
Last year, Bolivia joined Venezuela as one of the few countries in the world to successfully reverse a coup. The people’s struggle is on the rise in Brazil as the political persecution of Lula da Silva comes unraveled. Mexico and Argentina also elected left-leaning governments in recent years. If the left returns to power in Ecuador, it will further demonstrate that the working people of Latin America will not accept the United States or their austerity-pushing bankers as their neocolonial masters.