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Will the left return to power in Ecuador?

Photo: Andrés Arauz with supporters. Credit — @ecuarauz

With nearly all the votes counted, left wing candidate Andrés Arauz has come in first place with over 32 percent of the vote in the first round of Ecuador’s presidential election. Arauz’s strong showing raises hopes for a new era in Ecuador after years of struggle and brutal crackdowns over the outgoing government’s pro-corporate, anti-worker policies. This election offers a path back towards the socialist-oriented program of the Citizen’s Revolution — a process of social change that was initiated by former President Rafael Correa in 2007.

Results currently show Yaku Pérez of the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement narrowly beating out Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing party Creating Opportunities to make it into the second round. Lasso, however, has contested the result. 

According to Ecuador’s National Electoral Council, Arauz is leading with 32.1 percent of the vote over Perez and Lasso, who received 20 and 19.55 percent respectively. In Ecuador’s electoral system, unless a candidate receives over 40 percent of the vote with at least a 10 percentage point lead over their nearest rival a second round of voting must be held.

Arauz, a young economist, was strongly supported by Correa and aims to cut Ecuador’s dependence on the parasitic International Monetary Fund (IMF). He also promised to increase taxes on the country’s elite and provide financial assistance to millions of struggling Ecuadorians. 

Determined to prevent the return of the Citizens Revolution, the government of outgoing President Lenin Moreno went to great lengths in an attempt to prohibit Arauz from participating in the election. Progressive forces had to wage a determined struggle to secure a court victory allowing his candidacy to go forward. Many other key figures in the Citizens Revolution have faced judicial persecution in recent years. Moreno was once a close ally of Correa, but betrayed the movement after taking power.

Pérez presents himself as a left wing environmentalist and a representative of the country’s Indigenous movement. But he and his political movement have in fact been close allies of Ecuador’s right wing that represents the country’s traditional oligarchy. Pérez has said he is open to trade deals with the United States and has openly courted U.S. officials. He is an avowed opponent of many of the leaders targeted for regime change by the United States, having supported the fascist coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia in 2019 and attempts to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. Perez’s movement played a role in an unsuccessful coup attempt to remove Rafael Correa from office in 2010.

Lasso, on the other hand, served as the economy minister during Ecuador’s 1999 financial crash, which had a devastating effect on the working class. He was also accused of rampant corruption and enjoys a close relationship with the United States and Ecuador’s elite. Lasso is himself an ultra-wealthy banker. 

Electoral battle a continuation of the struggle in the streets

Since 2019, Moreno’s presidency persistently faced turmoil as it was hit with massive protests organized by Indigenous and working class organizations against proposed austerity measures required to secure a $4.2 billion IMF loan. To quelch rising discontent, the Moreno administration declared a nationwide emergency leading to widespread military and police repression against protesters. But the uprising was so intense that Moreno’s government was forced to flee the capital city Quito and eventually scrapped most of the agreement.

Moreno has also dutifully done the will of the United States on the world stage. His government backed efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, and expelled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from Ecuador’s embassy in London, where the journalist had received safe haven.   

Last year, protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against Moreno’s response to the COVID-19 crisis that slashed wages and jobs across the public sector as the death toll skyrocketed. According to a United Nations study, more than 58 percent of Ecuadorians are impoverished with nearly 39 percent living in extreme poverty during Moreno’s term. As a consequence, Moreno’s disapproval rating reached 91 percent.

This election comes at a time of growing momentum for progressive and socialist forces in Latin America. Massive protests in recent years have swept countries across the region, and in recent months key victories at the ballot box were secured by the Movement for Socialism in Bolivia and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. If Arauz becomes president of Ecuador, it will be yet another sign that the people of Latin America refuse to be ruled by right wing elites loyal to Washington.

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