Rafael Correa discusses Ecuador's 'Citizens' Revolution' and answers his left critics

Rafael Correa speaks at a rally in support of his re-election in next year's poll, Quito, November 10.

By Federico Fuentes

November 11, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- While European governments continue to impose policies aimed at making working people pay for a crisis they did not cause, the Ecuadorian government of Rafael Correa has taken a different course.

“Those who are earning too much will be giving more to the poorest of this country”, a November 1 Reuters dispatch quoted Correa as saying. He was announcing a new measure to raise taxes on banks to help fund social security payments.

Ecuador’s banking sector has registered US$349 million in after-tax profits, a November 8 El Telegrafo article said. “The time has arrived to redistribute those profits,” said Correa.

Reuters reported that by lifting the tax rate on bank holdings abroad and applying a new tax on financial services, the government hopes to raise between $200 million and $300 million a year.

The proceeds will fund a rise in the “human development bonus payment” from $35 to $50 a month. About 1.2 million Ecuadorians receive the payment, mainly single mothers and the elderly.

Such a move ― in the opposite direction to the most of the rest of the world ― is largely explained by the fact the Correa government is a result of the kind of protests movements now developing in Europe.

Citizen’s revolution

In an interview published in the September/October issue of New Left Review, Correa said the backdrop to his rise to power was “a citizens’ revolution, a revolt of indignant citizens” against bankers and politicians destroying the country.

“In that sense we anticipated the recent indignado movement in Europe by five or six years,” Correa said.

In 1999, a crisis engulfed Ecuador’s banking sector and the government of the day tried to make the people carry the cost. Then-president Jamil Mahuad was toppled by a popular uprising in 2000. The country’s indigenous movements, spearheading opposition to neoliberalism, played a leading role.

Ecuador’s economic crisis was soon coupled with a political crisis as peoples’ illusions in the traditional parties of government collapsed. “¡Que se vayan todos!” (Out with all of them!) became the rallying cry of Ecuador’s next popular insurrection, which in 2005 toppled president Lucio Gutierrez.

It was in this context that a relatively unknown leftist economist, Correa, was asked to serve as the finance minister for Gutierrez’s replacement, Alfredo Palacio.

Correa recalled: "In my short time at the Finance Ministry ― around a hundred days ― we showed that one didn't have to do the same as always: submission to the IMF and World Bank, paying off the external debt irrespective of the social debts still pending.

“This created a high level of expectations on the part of the public.”

Correa’s resignation due to differences with Palacio was greeted by protests. Perhaps for the first time in history, the protests were not against a finance minister, but in support.

With a group of close collaborators, Correa decided: “We couldn’t let the expectations that had been raised, the feeling that things could be done differently, end in disappointment.

“We travelled across the country and formed a political movement to secure the presidency. For we saw very clearly that in order to change Ecuador, we had to win political power.”

In 2006, Correa ran for president on a campaign that, he said, was “proposing a revolution, understood as a radical and rapid change in the existing structures of Ecuadorean society, in order to change the bourgeois state into a truly popular one”. Correa won in a second round run-off.

Make the bankers pay

One of the first big challenges his government faced was the global economic crisis that hit in 2008.

The crisis was felt in Ecuador through the loss of foreign markets, falling oil prices (the country’s chief export), and a sharp drop in remittances from emigrants, which many Ecuadoreans depended.

Despite this, Ecuador's economy suffered far less than many others. Correa said this was due to "a combination of technical know-how and a vision of the common good ― acting on behalf of our citizens, not finance capital".

“For example,” he said, “we used to have an autonomous central bank, which is one of the great traps of neoliberalism, so that whichever government is in power, things carry on as before”.

“Thanks to the 2008 Constitution, it is no longer autonomous.”

This meant the government could take back its national reserves that were held in overseas banks. Together with new loans from China and obliging private banks to return savings to Ecuador, the government was able to ramp up public investment.

This helped lift Ecuador out of the crisis quicker than any other Latin American country.

The government also enacted other measures to ensure peoples’ needs came before profits. For example, new laws prohibit banks from penalising low-income, first-time home buyers who default on their loans.

The most ambitious move however, which demonstrate how much had begun to change in Ecuador, was the government’s decision to renegotiate its foreign debt.

Correa told NLR: "The cost of the external debt was one of the greatest obstacles to Ecuador's development. At one time, servicing the debt consumed 40 per cent of the budget, three times what was spent on the social sphere ― education, health and so on.

“The allocation of resources demonstrated who was in charge of the economy: bankers, creditors, international financial institutions.”

To turn this around, the government initiated the Committee for an Integral Audit of the Public Debt (CAIC).

“The Commission proved beyond any doubt what we already knew: the external debt was immoral, a robbery. For example, the 2012 and 2030 Global Bonds were sold on the secondary market at 30 per cent of their value, but we had to pay them at the full 100 per cent. When it looked at the contracts, the Commission also found a lot of corruption and conflicts of interest.

“So in December 2008 the CAIC ruled that this debt was immoral, and we declared a unilateral moratorium on those bonds. This was at a moment when we were in a strong economic position ― oil prices were high, exports were growing ― which was deliberate. This meant that the value of the debt dropped, and we forced our creditors to negotiate and sell back their bonds in a Dutch auction.

“We managed to buy back our debt at 32–33 per cent of its value, which meant billions of dollars of savings for the Ecuadorean people, both in capital and in interest payments.

"This freed up a lot of resources which we could dedicate to the social sphere; now, the situation is reversed from what it was before ― we spend three times as much on education, health, housing as on debt service."

Human needs over greed

Correa said: “Now we are reducing inequality, and poverty with it, through a combination of four things.

First, making the rich pay more taxes. We have instituted a much more progressive taxation system, and people now actually pay their taxes ― collection has doubled. “These resources, together with oil revenues and the money saved by reducing the debt burden, can be devoted to education, health and so on.”

The second focus is giving people opportunities by providing free education and healthcare.

“Thirdly, governing the market and improving the labour system.”

Correa said: “The market is a reality that we cannot avoid; but believing the market should allocate everything is a different matter. The market needs to be governed by collective action.

“We are putting an end to forms of exploitation such as subcontracting. We are improving real wages ...

“Around 60–65 per cent of families could afford the basic basket at the start of our mandate, now we’ve reached 93 per cent, the highest in the country’s history.

“We’ve disproved orthodox economic theory, the idea that to generate employment one needs to lower real wages: here the real wage has risen substantially, and we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the region―just under 5 per cent.

“We’ve also paid attention to the quality of employment, making sure businesses comply with labour laws. While raising wages for labour, we’ve reduced the remuneration for capital.”

The fourth measure, Correa explained, is “distributing adequately our social patrimony”.

Correa said: “We used to give away our oil: before the Palacio government, transnational companies would take the equivalent of 85 out of every 100 barrels and leave us with 15; now we have renegotiated the contracts, the proportions have been reversed.

“Another example: after the economic crisis of 1999–2000, many enterprises which were used as collateral for loans should have ended up in state hands; it was we who finally seized them. In the case of the Isaias Group, owned by the family of the same name, in 2008 we recovered around 200 enterprises.”

The result of these measures has been a marked lowering of poverty and inequality.

This helps explain why, six years after first being elected, Correa looks set to comfortably win presidential elections next March. Recent polls show Correa winning with between 55-60% of the vote.

In distant second is a banker, Guillermo Lasso, with about 15% support.

Ecuador: Correa responds to 'leftist' critics

By Federico Fuentes

November 11, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa counts on a high level of support at home. But internationally, he has been criticed for policies on development, the environment and indigenous peoples.

Tackling these issues in an interview in the September-October issue of New Left Review, Correa raised some important issues for activists in the global North.

Asked about his attitude towards balancing resource exploitation and environmental protection, Correa said: “We cannot lose sight of the fact that the main objective of a country such as Ecuador is to eliminate poverty. And for that we need our natural resources.

“There are people here who seem ready to create more poverty but leave those resources in the ground, or who even see poverty as something folkloric, as if children in the central highlands should keep dying of gastroenteritis and life expectancy should stay at 35.

“That is criminal.”

Criticising what he calls the “infantile left”, Correa said: “It is madness to say no to natural resources, which is what part of the left is proposing ― no to oil, no to mining, no to gas, no to hydroelectric power, no to roads.

“In the classic socialist tradition, I don’t know where Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh or Castro said no to mining or natural resources. This is an absurd novelty, but it’s as if it has become a fundamental part of left discourse.

“It is all the more dangerous for coming from people who supposedly speak the same language. With so many restrictions, the left will not be able to offer any viable political projects.”

Correa said: “What we need to do is exploit those resources in the right way.”

Acknowledging that mining and oil extraction has caused major environmental disasters, Correa said: “If we exploit natural resources carefully, it can even benefit the environment, in two ways.

“Firstly, just as wealth harms the environment through energy consumption, so does poverty: I can’t tell a poor family living next to a forest not to cut down the trees. If we reduce poverty, we can conserve the environment.

“Second, there are a series of delusions: that oil destroys the jungle, for example. What does the most damage to the jungle? The expansion of the agrarian frontier. To avoid this we need to create alternative sources of employment and income.”

Such ideas will certainly be seen as controversial within environmentalist circles. But perhaps Correa's most provocative statements were on the question of the global climate change movement.

Correa said: “Some enthusiasts say that with what is happening in Latin America, [global] power relations will be changed from the South. I think this is a mistake: we’re a long way from being able to affect power relations on a global level.

“It is the citizens of the North who are going to change them. This was why there was so much hope raised by the indignado movement [in Spain] and Occupy Wall Street, which were an awakening of the citizens of the First World.

“But only once those citizens have rebelled against the prevailing structures will we descend from rhetoric to actions, so that real commitments can be made to avoid climate change and preserve the only planet we have.”

Indigenous movement

Another area of controversy has been the relationship between Correa’s government and Ecuador’s main indigenous organisation, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).

Correa acknowledges that indigenous peoples have made a great contribution to transforming Ecuador. “This can be seen in the new Constitution in several ways. We now define our republic as a ‘pluri-national’ state, recognising the indigenous communities as fundamental and distinct entities, endowed with distinct rights and status.

“It is also largely thanks to the indigenous communities that nature itself is recognised as a fundamental value in trust to the nation …

“While we insist that we need real development, we do not identify this narrowly with GDP defined in monetary terms, but instead take full account of its costs and consequences at every level, imposing the most stringent controls.”

At the same time, however, Correa said while “some indigenous communities have supported the government, others sometimes opposed it”. He said he hoped “in time such differences will be reconciled”.

Correa gave his opinion on why his government’s relationship with sections of the indigenous movement, in particular CONAIE, have been fraught with conflict.

He pointed to three defining moments in this relationship. The first was during the 2006 election campaign when his party, Alianza Pais (Country Alliance), approached Pachakutik, the electoral arm of CONAIE, to run to a joint slate for president and vice-president.

Correa said: “We did this despite the fact that Pachakutik had been discredited and lost a good deal of support by serving in the 2003–05 government of Lucio Gutierrez …

Despite this, and because we respected the indigenous movements trajectory, we proposed a joint Alianza Pais/Pachakutik ticket for the presidency, headed by whoever would have the best chance of winning the election, to be decided by a national survey on the question ― with the other standing as Vice President.

“They refused, and some were very hostile to us because of this offer. It’s been suggested that, after their experience with Gutierrez, there was opposition in their ranks to supporting any candidate outside their own movement; that might be true, but I think the leadership was also moving farther away from its base, and it knew that working with us would mean opening up the political agenda.”

In the end, Pachakutik ran its own candidate for the 2006 presidential election, winning about 2% of the vote.

Correa said the second moment came in in 2007-08 in relation to the elected Constituent Assembly, charged with drafting a new constitution.

Winning a majority of the seats in the assembly, Country Alliance made clear its support for the indigenous demand of declaring Ecuador a “plurinational” state.

“This did not mean, however, committing ourselves to a fragmentation of the state or an end to national unity. The idea has always been to recognise diversity and difference in order to be more integrated and cohesive as a nation, not so as to make room for any kind of territorial autonomy that weakens the national state.”

Resource control

Another debate in the assembly was whether communities should have to give prior consent before any resource extraction could occur in the area.

Correa argued: “Natural resources are public goods, public property, and we cannot allow small communities, however great their historical legitimacy, to have the last word on their use.”

In the end, “prior consultation” was included in the constitution, which was approved with 63% support in a referendum. Pachakutik supported the new constitution in that poll.

The third moment came after the 2009 elections. Despite forging alliances with different indigenous groups, Country Alliance was unable to come to any agreement with CONAIE or Pachakutik.

These tensions led to a complete breakdown in dialogue.

“In the debates on the water law, the mining law and other bills, it was becoming impossible to debate with Pachakutik. Their view is fundamentalist and strongly influenced by foreign NGOs, who provide a distorted ecological discourse that fails to take into account the great needs of the Ecuadorean people …

“In the case of the water law, we were agreed on 80 per cent of the legislation, but Pachakutik clung to the idea that the state body in charge of running the country’s water supply should be composed only of community representatives ... and water committees.

“What about democratic legitimacy? How can we have a public regulatory body for a sector as important for the country as water without the political presence of the government, of the national state?

“There are conceptual differences here: we are not corporativists; the indigenous leaders often seek to have institutions which they can control, but we go beyond this fragmented view of the state.

The upshot was that Pachakutik, lining up with the right opposition in the Assembly, did not allow the water law to be approved, and today we still have the same law that was passed by the neoliberals in the 1990s ― one that doesn't allow the state to regulate the water sector.

Correa said this was not the only time Pachakutik sided with the right in parliament.

Others include: opposing Ecuador’s entry into the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), an anti-imperialist bloc led by Venezuela and Cuba; not supporting the establishment of the sucre as a regional trading currency of ALBA; and abstaining on “a vote condemning the scandalous ruling recently handed down by the ICSID [World Bank dispute tribunal] that Ecuador should pay more than $2.2 billion to Occidental Petroleum”.


Correa pointed out Pachakutik even supported a coup attempt against his government in 2010. “Finally, during the attempt to destabilise our democracy made on 30 September 2010, the indigenous leadership called on its base to mobilise against the President and his democratic and constitutional mandate.

“It is not easy to have a dialogue in these conditions.”

Despite these differences, Correa maintained: "We have always treated the indigenous movement as equals ― none of this infantilising of indigenous actors or treating them as victims, as NGOs and a certain paternalist left have always done ― which means that I can sometimes be tough with them, as I am with anyone else ...

“The indigenous problem is an issue for Ecuador as a whole, and all public institutions should contribute to solving it, regardless of whether they are run by indigenous people or not.

“From that point of view we have made great strides towards the inclusion of the indigenous in education, universities, health, among other sectors. The largest reductions in poverty we have made have been among the indigenous.

“But there is still much to be done.”

[Federico Fuentes is a Sydney-based Socialist Alliance activist. With Michael Fox and Roger Burbach, Fuentes is the co-author of the forthcoming book, Latin America's Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First Century Socialism.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sun, 11/25/2012 - 19:57


Sunday, November 18, 2012

By Tamara Pearson, Quito

Rally to support Rafael Correa's re-election, Quito, November 10. Photo by Tamara Pearson.

About 25,000 people squished themselves into the sports stadium of Chillogallo, the most populated area of Quito, to launch the candidates of President Rafael Correa’s Alianza PAIS (Country Alliance, or AP) on November 10. Elections are scheduled for next February for the presidency and National Assembly.

In the Venezuelan way, I was a little late for the rally, standing up on a trolebus (tram) as it stopped to let the president’s motorcade pass. Within a few minutes, Correa was speaking, starting the rally only five minutes later than it was called for ― setting an example in another country with grave problems with efficiency and bureaucracy.

People, packed into the stadium from the seated area to the grass field, wore AP’s highlighter green colour, waved the party flag and balloons, and blew plastic trumpets. Just like when Hugo Chavez speaks in Venezuela, it was extremely hot and feet were mashed as people tried to squeeze through non-existent gaps to get a little closer to the stage.

Nevertheless, where I was standing one man gave me half his seat, commenting: “Revolutionaries should always help each other.” He put a green flag over our heads to shade us from the sun, and as speakers announced the candidate lists for various provinces, the people around me shared water, sun cream, and ice-blocks.

The crowd voted symbolically for the candidate lists with cheering, clapping and holding up their delegate identification cards. Between the announcements, they chanted loudly, “Re-election!” and “just one round!” -- referring to the possibility of a run-off election should no presidential candidate get more than 40% of the vote and a lead of 10%, and also revealing a general confidence that Correa will win the elections.

Then, to the tune of “Hey Jude”, they sang: “Ecuador has risen up, a new country ... Always, always, always, citizens’ revolution!” (You can hear a formal version of the new “hymn” of the revolution hereHYPERLINK "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e8Y7PATDX0" herehereHYPERLINK "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e8Y7PATDX0" herehere.)

Ecuadorians will vote on February 17 for their president and vice-president, as well as for 137 members of the national assembly; drawn from provinces, a national list, and six migrant spots, and for their five Andean Parliament representatives. Electoral campaigning will be allowed from January 4 until February 14. Those elected will assume their positions until 2017.

Under the new constitution adopted by referendum in 2008, candidates must be “promoted in a fair and equitable way”. The Ecuadorian National Electoral Council has therefore established an electoral spending limit of US$1,749,000 for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

This amount doesn’t include media and billboard advertising, as that is assigned to each candidate from a state budget.

A disabled vice-president will be missed

In the lead-up to the rally, there had been a lot of media speculation over who Correa’s vice-presidential candidate would be. The current vice-president, Lenin Moreno, began to speak, and as he talked of not running, but of “staying in the citizens’ revolution”, the crowd refused to let him end his speech, chanting “Correa and Lenin!”, “Lenin, don’t go” and “Lenin, friend, the people are with you”.

Moreno was shot in 1998 in a car park as men tried to rob him. He lost the movement of his legs, and after two years bedridden and in pain, he turned to laughter therapy. Within another four years, he was well enough to go about in a wheel chair, and he started to promote humour through an organisation he created called “Eventa” and by writing 10 books.

As a paraplegic, he is one of the world’s few disabled national leaders, and has received a range of decorations and recognition for his work, including a nomination for the Nobel peace prize this year.

When Moreno became vice-president, he investigated the state of people with disabilities in Ecuador and found that the government’s entire budget for disability services was about US$100,000. He travelled the country and people with disabilities living in sheds and dark rooms and hidden away.

Moreno raised the disability services budget 50-fold, and the Ecuadorian government now provides assistance to more than 600,000 people, housing and income for 15,000 people and prostheses for a further 4000.

When Correa announced his running mate for February, there was a subdued response from the crowd. The candidate, Jorge Glas, is an engineer who has held various top level positions, including minister for telecommunications. He is now minister for strategic sectors, but has a relatively low public profile.

Glas is not known as a revolutionary militant, has not taken part in elections before. His speech on Saturday was short and unexciting. Private media here has since speculated that Correa chose someone who would not “overshadow” him.

Changing Ecuador requires political power

After talking about the need for new leaders (a woman near me yelled out “and participation of the masses!”) Correa’s speech was practical, concrete and inspiring.

“How Ecuador has changed!” he said, smiling. “How the people have changed, how much we’ve advanced, and I’ve been witness to this ...

“It’s something that can’t be done alone, there are millions of souls who accompany us ... Ecuador has changed because they had even stolen our hope.”

Since Correa came to power in 2007, his government has overseen the introduction of a new, progressive constitution and a raft of other measures.

Some of the social reforms include: opening up Ecuador’s borders to Peruvians and Colombians; passing criminal reform so that petty criminals do not go to jail; and prohibiting beauty contests in schools (something still allowed in Venezuela and even promoted by some leaders of Chavez’s party).

The Correa government’s pro-poor measures include: implementing a pension payment benefiting 1.2 million Ecuadorians, which was just raised to $50 to be paid for by higher taxes on banks; building schools in remote areas, renovating the many schools left to ruin under previous governments; increasing access to healthcare, and expropriating large farms or companies that have been abandoned or broken the law.

Internationally, Ecuador has withdrawn from the infamous US-run School of the Americas military training program, closed a US military base, granted diplomatic asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and criticised many of the crimes of US imperialism.

Correa said: “The challenges are still huge though, we have to change the unfair economic structures ... and social and economic poverty is intolerable, we can’t tolerate it for one more day.

“But poverty won’t be cured just with solidarity and passion, but with political power exercised for the vast majority, unlike a bourgeois state which only serves a few ... That’s why these elections are important. We will return.”

Correa suggested a strategic aim for the February elections: to win an absolute majority in the national assembly; something Venezuela’s governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) failed to do in the last assembly elections, winning just a simple majority.

Correa also talked about how full-time workers for the movement have not been paid in months. He proposed that each AP candidate elected to the assembly donate 5% of their income to support the movement. They will also have two assessors each, “so if we get 80 legislators, that’s the equivalent of what the Gringos call a ‘think tank’ for the revolution”.

Correa outlined his plan for governing for 2013-2017. The plan is built on the last one and its seven themes of: Economic revolution, ethical revolution, social, education and health revolution, Latin American integration, justice revolution, a fight against corruption, and environmental revolution.

For 2013-2017 Correa, has added; a knowledge revolution, an urban revolution, and a cultural revolution.

Other presidential candidates

Two key people are also running for Ecuadorian president (though neither is likely to win), a banker Guillermo Lasso, and left-wing economist Alberto Acosta.

Lasso is running for the CREO (Creating Opportunities) party. He is main shareholder and president of Guayaquil Bank, and has been economics minister or assessor under previous presidents.

Lasso set up the Free Ecuador Foundation, which advocates private property and free market “solutions” to poverty. According to US embassy cables leaked by WikiLeaks, Lasso sent reports about the Ecuadorian government to the US embassy and also requested US help in 2007 to “counter the policies” of Correa.

In the cables, Lasso told the US of a publicity campaign he would air, linking Correa to Chavez and featuring Ecuadorians saying they would not like to live through the same experience as Venezuela. Lasso’s candidacy comes after Ecuador went through a profound crisis in 1999, with the state bailing out bankrupt financial organisations at a cost of billions of dollars.

Acosta, a supporter of the anti-globalisation and anti-mining movement, helped write the first government plan for AP. He is considered one of the main people who helped develop the ideology of the “citizens’ revolution”.

A former close ally of Correa, Acosta was the minister of energy and mining and president of the national assembly in the early stages of Correa’s government. But he now criticises the government for what he terms its “official authoritarianism”. He will be running for a coalition of political parties and movements.

A citizens’ revolution without citizen involvement?

Just a few days before the rally I talked to Rafael Quintero, president of the Socialist Party-Broad Front (PS-FA). Ecuador’s socialist party was formed in 1926 as a secular party that aims for social, political, and economic structural change in Ecuador, as well as the socialisation of the means of production and distribution.

In 1995, the party united with the Broad Left Front. In the 2006 elections, the PS-FA backed Correa.

In the February poll, the PS-FA will support Correa’s candidacy, but will run its own candidates for the national assembly.

“We tried to form an alliance with the AP, but they want support instead,” Quintero said. He had insisted I sit in on his meetings with the movement leaders and party presidents of different provinces so that I could “see how we work”.

“We’re interested in winning places in these elections. But what we’re really concerned about is training an active base, because without that, we’re not going to radicalise the process.”

Quintero graduated in politics, has written 26 political books, including one he gave me titled Political Animal: Readings to Politicise the Memory. His wife, Erika Sylva, is minister for culture.

Quintero told me: “I’m requesting a meeting with Correa, to argue with him about how his movement wants support and not alliances”.

When his meetings were over and he had a spare 10 minutes, I asked Quintero about one of the most glaring differences I’ve noticed between Ecuador and Venezuela; the lack here in Ecuador of large amounts of grassroots organising, political discussion, and grassroots participation in political decision making.

“I think there’s an ideological origin that differentiates Chavez from Correa, and that is the importance that they both give to organisation,” he replied. “Chavez came from the armed forces, he lived through a coup, organisation is everything for him, whereas Correa is an academic who doesn’t understand what organisation is.

“He never understood the importance of political parties, he never had any experience with them. His insertion in a political party was as a left-wing Christian, a humanist, an academic.

“So he has a basis for his politics and he understands well the importance of movements, but he doesn’t apply a policy of participation as something central. He has a big love for his country, he’s anti-imperialist, and he wants to modernise the country”.

How does Quintero hope his party can radicalise the process of change in Ecuador?

“We’re a political party that has a tradition of left unity ... as a party we believe that the country has advanced with Correa and will continue to, so we support him. There are ultra left organisations, but god only knows who they are really with, sometimes it seems they are with the opposition.

“So we support Correa, but we want radicalisation, we want an agrarian revolution, a change in the economic structure so that there are various types of property such as public property, cooperatives, and small and medium business, and that the rich are the ones who pay taxes.

“We want the quality of education to be improved, it has a little but it’s still bad. Correa has done a lot for education and health.”

“Socialism is a stage of transition; it’s not created in one presidential period. So we have a vision, a medium and long term one, we don’t believe in socialism overnight, because it’s complicated.”

The march of bicycles and green balloons

On November 12, Correa, Glas and thousands of others donned helmets, sun hats, placards, and more green balloons, and road bikes from the main plaza to the CNE to register their party’s candidates.

It impressed me, because it is something that probably wouldn’t happen in Venezuela, where we have long caravanas of people stacked into cars, honking horns, and waving red flags, and it’s fair to say that while they are impressive, they aren’t great for the environment.

Still, the movements in the two countries are like sisters. As Gabriela Rivadeneira, heading up the AP’s assembly list of national candidates, said that day at the CNE, Ecuador’s “Bolivarian project has gained strength with the victory [on October 7] of comrade Hugo Chavez in Venezuela”.

Not just Bolivar’s sword travelling around Latin America

At the sports stadium in Chillogallo, when 25,000 people dance under the hot sun after Correa finishes speaking, it struck me that Venezuela and Ecuador are not the same, but not so different either. Both face the same barrage of attacks from private media, the same discourse of insults, lies and demonisation.

And, it’s not just Liberation fighter Simon Bolivar’s sword -- as is chanted in both Venezuela and Ecuador, “Alert! Alert! Alert those who walk, Bolivar’s sword around Latin America!” --but also a wonderful fiesta creating waves across this continent.

I felt the same sort of energy, hopefulness and happiness that I have felt in marches in Venezuela. After decades of dictatorships, mass disappearances, repression, and after centuries of occupation and domination of this colourful continent, there may not yet be a movement that is completely clear on the finer points of socialist economics, but we have a glimpse at dignity for the poor majority.

[Tamara Pearson is a Venezuela Analysis journalist based in Merida, Venezuela.]