The Link Between Authoritarianism, Economics and Culture in Ecuador

It is human nature to fall back upon authoritarian leadership. Liberty, freedom and the support of natural human rights is a rarity in human history. Within this paper we’ll look closer specifically at the tumultuous history of Ecuador in the modern era from the early 1900s to the modern day while considering their authoritarianism streak and the view that stability and is more often neglected than supported.

When considering Latin America, or even South America, Ecuador is often a country neglected excepting its ownership over the Galapagos Islands. Part of this is due to its incredibly small size and similarly small population. While it is a highway in the drug trade and its border with Colombia is porous, Ecuador isn’t known for growing illegal drugs. Likewise it isn’t strategically important aside from its Galapagos Islands, although some of this importance has been shed away after the United States built the Panama Canal and reinforced its hold over Hawaii. Ecuador is also known for failing to pay its debts to its major debtors over the last few centuries whether it be from the British, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United States again and now more recently, possibly, China. Aside from poking the ire of the United States by supporting extreme left tyranny in its modern history, it is largely forgotten.

After its separation from Spain with aid from Simon Bolivar, it soon shed itself from Gran Colombia and spent the rest of the 19th century trying to fight off Peru while modernizing itself with railroads and other infrastructure projects with foreign help. Through the 20th century and into the early 21st century, Ecuador suffered through many dangerous governments from extremely powerful individuals, groups, a military dictatorship and civilian grasps for power. Javier Corrales in Fixing Democracy: Why Constitutional Change Often Fails to Enhance Democracy in Latin America says, “A study of constitutional longevity shows that most constitutions collapse frequently (the average constitution lasts nineteen years), while others are both enduring and stability-yielding (Ginsburg, Elkins, and Blount 2009). The same study highlights what many political economists have always suspected: countries with a high death rate of constitutions also suffer from other government illnesses, such as low economic growth rates, low investments, and high propensity for instability.” 1 It is noteworthy that Ecuador has suffered from many of these illnesses and it could be a pretext for why not only Ecuador, which is our focused example, but also why constitutions and freedoms ultimately fail in other countries.

Raphael Correa who was the previous president of Ecuador and did away with the Ecuador constitution in 2008 is a power-seeking autocrat. This does correlate with the previous paragraph with the horrible economy Ecuador suffered through in the 1990s where they lost the power of their currency. Correa’s subsequent policies in the mid 2000s did little to directly improve the lives of its citizens and therefore, a new constitution was ushered in which provided the government with more power. To provide the reader with a brief introduction of the types of friends Correa’s Ecuador sought, the article Ecuador: Political Turmoil, Social Mobilization, and a Turn Toward the Left within Latin America: Its Problems and Its Promise states, “Third, the Ecuadorean government renewed efforts to maintain close relations with like-minded Latin American governments (Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba in particular) and to diversify its diplomatic initiatives with the European Union, Iran in the Middle East, Libya in North Africa, and China.”2 The excuse given is Ecuador’s efforts for further autonomy. However, rushing toward China rarely, if ever, provides a nation with more freedom and it can be easily argued that Ecuador has been further subjugated by Correa’s extreme Left leanings.

But now let’s look specifically at Ecuador’s history beginning from the early 1900s to see how they arrived at this end result. The early 1900s began brutally with revolution in the 1910s where rivers literally flowed with blood. Ecuador was in dire straits economically and its government had even considered selling the Galapagos Islands to the United States before the Ecuadorian population discovered this plot and immediately provided threats to the Ecuadorian government which quickly ended that consideration. To highlight the economic and troublesome woes of Ecuador at the time, specifically in 1909, Spindler mentioned, “Ecuador’s economic situation worsened. The government found itself burdened with a foreign debt of S/27,950,000 and an internal debt of approximately S/11,000,000, while its annual income of S/12,000,000 proved inadequate for its needs. William C. Fox, the United States minister in Quito at that time, attributed the small annual income in part to ‘the usurious system enforced and frauds perpetrated upon the Government.’ He also observed that

‘The civilian employees are often four months, and more, in arrears in receiving their salaries. This causes distress, lowers the moral stand of the public service, and is responsible for many peculations which crop out constantly.’”3

Ecuador had suffered under similar conditions since its beginning and so the pattern continuing is hardly surprising.

By 1928 there were still strong notes of desperation within the country. While wealthy Europeans had traveled throughout the less notable portions of Europe in the mid to late 1800s, they soon began traveling to Africa, Asia and Latin America in the early to mid 1900s. Henri Michaux kept a journal of his travel, specifically through Ecuador in 1928 and stated this simply, “RETURN TO QUITO

(this concerns the upper plateau)

Monday, March 12 [1928]

Ecuador is barren and poor.

A few mounds! and the ground the color of a blood sore

Or black as a truffle.

The paths feather-lined and steep.

Overhead a sky of mud

Then all of a sudden in the air the purest white lily of a tall volcano.”4

It is interesting to note that Michaux considered everything beyond the reach of human hands to be pure and good while where the people existed was dirty, poor and compared it to a blood sore. Within this short stanza we’re able to glean how outsiders viewed Ecuador at that time. While North America, Europe and portions of the rest of the world were beginning, or continuing to advance, Ecuador still seemed to be struggling to put together the basics to stabilize its nation. Panning back and forth between extremes, between authoritarian people, did little to help it. But ignorance, lack of an infrastructure and education all led to the belief that one person, or a small group, could change everything.

Part of this, is unfortunately, embedded within the culture. Reflecting on Michaux once more, he repeats a refrain many travelers have experienced from the 1800s to the modern day. Michaux wrote again in 1928, “Many Frenchmen once they have made a promise before witnesses feel obligated by their word.

“Well, not the Ecuadorian. He has said tomorrow, very well it will be the day after that. And when you await him two days later, oh no, it is over with, or rather something else, or nothing at all. He has changed his mind.

“When it comes to matters of form he does not put his word to one side.

“No, he changes his mind, his word, it is all the same.”5 Mañana is a popular claim and the point of being on time isn’t necessarily important for Ecuadorians. While this may not seem like a major issue to some, being on time is incredibly important for the advancement and stabilization of a nation. Without the beginnings of structure, it can make stabilization, much less success, so much more difficult. The phrase “mañana” means procrastinating and putting off the work or scheduled appointment. It’s delaying the prospects for a prosperous future. This is not necessarily a bad thing depending on the person but when the phrase is settled on a country, the attitude weighs on everyone, even those who want to succeed but are prevented from doing so due to mañana culture. And it is rare that one person can change the fate of a nation. Often, they’re swept away. Or, they can take advantage of the situation and become another authoritarian strong man who vows to advance the country without ever having the intention of doing so and since the people are not necessarily concerned, or at least not concerned about the right things, this can be quite easy to do if that person is able to catch the right moment.

Transitioning to the 1930s just as the Great Depression was settling upon most of the world, Ecuador found bananas. Or perhaps more correctly, the United Fruit Company found Ecuador. Panama Disease was affecting the bananas in Central America and United Fruit was having to battle against corrupt governments, changes in governments, unions, communists but Ecuador lacked some of these negatives.6 Ecuador had weak unions, if any at all, it didn’t have a history of working with bananas and so it wasn’t suffering from Panama Disease and its staple crop before bananas, cacao, had collapsed with the Great Depression. United Fruit, and other similarly foreign companies, arguably would be the first uniting force within Ecuador. While their arrival wasn’t always beneficial, it did provide those first stable steps a nation needs to find success.

After World War II, Ecuador’s economic future changed with the banana. Considering how wide open Ecuador was, other companies took advantage of the situation and United Fruit ceased to be the powerful conglomerate it had been throughout the first half of the century, “… once entrepreneurs such as Noboa tapped into Ecuador’s enormous agricultural potential, monopolization of the banana market was beyond the reach of any single company, even the most powerful agribusiness the world had ever known.”7 One would think that this sort of competition would strengthen the people but a strong, top-heavy government isn’t necessarily a liberal one which will allow its people to earn more.

Focusing on the effects of bananas it had an enormous affect on the population. Gerlach noted this point specifically in his book, Indians, Oil and Politics, “Prior to 1933, bananas never exceeded 1 percent of the value of exports, but in that fortuitous year United Fruit Company, owned by U.S. citizens, bought an abandoned cacao plantation and began planting. In 1947 the banana bonanza began. As a consequence, between 1942 and 1962 the population off the coast increased by more than 100 percent, whereas that of the country rose by 45 percent. Fueled by bananas, from 1947 to 1957 the Ecuadorean economy grew at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent. After decades of chaos, political stability resulted from the renewed prosperity.”8 This is further noted by Striffler where he comments that while labor unions and the extreme left organization were on the rise, they were never strong enough to enact their demands. He noted that “Velasco’s populism was the most powerful ‘popular’ political force, but it was ultimately conservative in orientation and never posed a serious threat to the social order.”9 The people were on the move and behind a populist leader who permitted the fruit companies to come in and provide some stability to the regions in which they operated. While there wasn’t great wealth to be found, there was a steady income on which the people could finally rely.

We can note in these instances that troubles melt away when the people are successful and there is some stability. While there may still be authoritarian tendencies, as noted by Velasco, this is also a natural growing stage as a people move toward success and eventually a true form of liberty whether it be a democracy, republic or some other form of representation. Even some of the racial issues were assuaged as noted by a 1950’s Ecuadorian President, Gala Plazo Lasso, “…said of his countrymen that we are all coffee and milk, some more coffee than milk, others more milk than coffee, but nothing more.10 Some of this would change after the 1950s in part because the rest of Latin America was finally beginning to recover and able to profit off of the economic successes gained from getting beyond the Great Depression and ricocheting off of the booming of the wealthier nations such as the United States throughout the decade.

In the mid-1960s oil was discovered in Ecuador in large amounts, principally in Lago Agrio in 1968. Just as Ecuador was going to rebound from its lagging economy, a military junta took over in 1972. Instead of relaxing control, it constrained it, taking large percentages out of signed agreements with Texaco and Gulf in 1965 to the point where the Ecuadorian junta installed an income tax in 1973 at 44.4% which increased substantially to 87.31% in 1977.11 Again noted in Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs, “Import-substituting industrialization (ISI) had been official policy since passage of the Law of Industrial Incentives in 1957, although actual implementation of the approach was halting for several years. One reason for the modest impact of ISI during the 1960s was that Ecuadorian consumers had little spending power, even though GDP per capita had grown steadily and an urban middle class had started to emerge during the banana boom.”12 Perhaps this is repetitious of the mañana culture. While having stability for twenty to thirty years is a great thing, as Ecuador had discovered, it isn’t hardly enough time to change a culture from one of poverty, defeatism and instability, to one that can find wealth, prosperity and freedom on its own. The fall back into authoritarian and a new constitution is the natural, predictable ebb and flow Ecuador has unfortunately gotten used to. While the government was able to curtail some of the taxes on bananas and their exporting due to the wealth the government found in oil, the people were not prospering as much as their military government.

The reason behind the culture not changing, and why more than a pair of decades is needed, is because there is always a caste system within all cultures. Specifically, if we look toward Guayaquil, an industrial port city in the south of Ecuador, Andrade and North note, “In the 1960s and 1970s ten Guayaquil based business empires, linked through elite family ties, controlled most commercial, financial, industrial, communications, and agricultural enterprises along the coast. A parallel, although somewhat less concentrated set of Quito-based elite families reigned over the highlands. The political power of these two sets of oligarchies was sufficient to block any thoroughgoing social and economic reform aimed toward redistribution of services, incomes, and assets (most importantly agricultural land).”13 While wealth and success is important for a transformative change, so too must a culture change occur. For as long as there remains an elite class, one which still exists today, the problems will persist. Wealth, and the creation of wealth, not stealing it, is the quickest way to create change. It is one of a few ways for nations to liberalize and while there will be momentary instability because of it, a nation will remain unstable and subject to outside actors by not making that change.

The wealth of the country did not trickle down with the big government. Instead it took, and after joining OPEC, the government spent. Through the 1970s it essentially sold its future oil reserves to take more money now.14 Authoritarian governments do not always provide stability. If we look at the time between 1974 to 1982, Ecuador’s foreign debt grew from 18% GDP to 60% GDP. These sorts of actions which took place mostly in the 1970s would affect Ecuador for the ensuing decades.

Aside from economics, the local population, particularly the minority Indians, were often prodded by the government. Borja specifically used the bureaucracy to fight the native tribes when he took power, where he “…only partially conceded to indigenous demands, granting Indians only 55 percent of the ancestral territory they claimed. Furthermore, the state divided Indian lands into nineteen seemingly arbitrary blocks… and assigned each land block a communal land title. The state gave each land block an indigenous name and dotted it with indigenous communities, granting the illusion that each of the nineteen land blocks corresponded to locally recognized social divisions.”15 Borja went even further as his administration, “…established a forty-kilometer-wide ‘security zone’ paralleling the Peruvian border. Pastaza is the only province in the Oriente to have a ‘security zone,’ a zone under the exclusive control of the military.”16 However, the government hardly stopped there as it continued pressuring the natives. Considering the Yasuni National Park the government extended those borders with the United Nations claiming that no humans lived there however, thousands of natives called it home.17 In these instances, the authoritarian government sought to not only destabilize a people for their own gain, but had fundamentally altered the future of Ecuador. By pitting the government against a specific group, it has fractured a society from which it has yet to recover and this is the prime reason why nations, at least those who want to remain free, must refrain from targeting specific groups whether those groups are in the minority or the majority for authoritarian doctrine will likely follow.

Advancing through to the 1980s the military junta had been thrown off and a free-market minded Febres Cordero was ushered into the Ecuadorian Presidency. He was lauded by the United States in 1986 and Ecuador was once again put on a path to receive aid and loans but the sudden shift in policy meant that more instability was to come. The economic troubles of Ecuador were hurried as its reliance on oil showed later in the year when “…by the second quarter of 1986, Ecuador’s oil revenues for the year fell by just under a billion dollars and caused what Vice-President Blasco Peñaherrera called ‘the worst financial and economic crisis in Ecuador’s history.’”18 The latter half of the 1980s would prove to be a difficult era for Ecuador.

In early 1987 Ecuador fell under the pressure of its fault lines where more travesty and instability of both economics and the government would suffer. Over a two day period, between 5 and 6 March 1987, Ecuador suffered through ten earthquakes, causing massive floods, mudslides and damage.19 Transportation was destroyed, 300 people were killed, thousands were missing and roughly 90,000 people were homeless in two days. Furthermore, oil, Ecuador’s prime product, was severely hampered with one field being destroyed along with a pumping station and pipelines. Damages were estimated at $926 million USD. In turn, this caused strikes in the ensuing weeks due to higher food prices and the devastation that was wrought.

Throughout Ecuador’s history, however, there has remained one continuous bright spot. While Ecuador has been surrounded by drug producers, it has largely remained out of the loop aside from its involvement as a transition state as noted by Valez’s article in Drugs and Democracy in Latin America, “Virtually no coca leaf is grown in Ecuador. This has been the case since the seventeenth century, when the colonial government abolished production of coca for what, in Peru and Bolivia, became known as ‘traditional uses.’”20 When wars on drugs became a popular catchphrase in the 1980s, Ecuador joined this action.

This instability continued to fuel itself into the 1990s. Noboa proposed that Ecuador delay in paying its debts but also claimed that it would be possible to secure more loans. The hopefulness of the man in trying to turn Ecuador around with this policy seemed to ignore reality and a realistic perspective on how other nations or organizations would view these actions.

Continuing with the dramatic climate, Ecuador sought to remove its president in 1997 “El Loco” Bucaram, after just six months in office. The troubles in the economic sector, the corruption and top heavy government had again caused a continuation of the political instability of the nation. There was confusion even in this aftermath as Bucaram sought support from the military while at the same time, three other people claimed that the line of succession fell to them.

Little changed as the decade chugged on for Ecuador. As noted by Gerlach, “Elections were scheduled for May 31, 1998. Meanwhile, the economy continued its sluggish course. Alarcón inherited a budget in which 45 percent of the expenditures went to pay the foreign debt, while another 40 percent was allocated to operating expenses and already existing programs.”21 But Ecuador’s politicians and businesses were hardly looking to resolve the crisis, instead they had sought to increase the flow of cash into their own pockets. In 2000 a survey by Transparency International released a polled perception by business people and public opinion comparing 90 countries. According to their results, Ecuador was seen as the most corrupt country in Latin America.22

Ecuador reached this point by faltering hard in the 1990s. In 1994 in trading the General Bank Law with the General Financial Institutions Law, Ecuador created massive problems for itself. In the International Finance Review, it’s recorded that, “During 1994, the macroeconomic indicators already showed a deteriorated panorama, passive and active interest rates were 26 and 45%, respectively, inflation reached 25.4% and the share of external debt in GDP was 86.41%.”24 They became more liberal with their lending practices which hampered profits and resulted in only a few people, companies and sectors receiving most of the impulsive benefits. Even the involvement of the IMF in 1998 and their suggestions didn’t do enough to change the disastrous economic course Ecuador had placed itself on. In just two more years their economy would completely shatter.

Between 1999 and 2000 Ecuador’s economy failed and the phrase Dollarization became popularized. Ecuador’s runaway economic woes forced them to discard their sucre only after so many people had lost everything; Ecuador’s conversion to the dollar became a realization. While few were able to make profits off of this transition due to deals that had been made with the sucre before it ballooned, many more people had lost everything they worked for their entire lives.

Dollarization did allow for some changes to be made. A foreign investment in a pipeline was initiated which was the largest foreign investment in Ecuador since the 1970s.26 Also some of the weight was able to be lifted with remittances, overseas Ecuadorians who were sending hard cash back to their families suffering the economic and political troubles back home. In fact, it was Ecuador’s second-highest form of foreign exchange after oil.27 However, the benefits of dollarization ended there.

Throwing out the currency was not an easy decision but too much waiting had been done, too much power had been granted to an ill-equipped, irresponsible government. Even after the government had vowed to stop printing money, inflation still rose to 91% by 2000 before reaching 22.4% in 2001 and sat above 10% in 2002.28 Trade quickly suffered along with the once powerful oil industry. By 2004 unemployment was still high at 12.1% and in 2003 Ecuador had initially recovered with their GDP growing by 3.5%.29 The effects of Ecuador’s economic collapse and their dollarization policy brought a depression that hadn’t been felt since the world’s Great Depression in the 1930s. It can easily be argued that this economic era was more drastic than the Great Depression for Ecuador even though it didn’t last nearly as long.

Due to this dramatic instability, the people were hardly happy. In Quito in 2000, “Rigoberto Villarreal, a 34-year old Quito taxi driver, offered his grim assessment: The ruling class has destroyed the country. We’ve got to kill the entire political class and begin anew.”30 Straight from the people we can see what poor economics can do to a country and how that brings further instability.

As stated, wages had been slashed due to dollarization. In Social Movements and State Power, it’s reported, “…[Dollarization] reduc[ed] by at least 40 per cent the value of wages and the incomes received by the majority of the population.”31 As a result of dollarization, this also moved the Indians who coalesced as CONAIE to move against the government in January 2000 which ended the government.

Trust in the institutions within Ecuador were also shattered when it was revealed in cold hard proof that they had been deceiving the public. As reported again by Gerlach, in 2000, “Falconi found that the bank improperly used millions of dollars lent to it by the government to help it avoid bankruptcy. Contrary to conditions attached to the loan, Filibanco managers transferred almost $100 million from their headquarters in Guayaquil to offshore operations just before the bank was finally taken over by the AGD. Many of the offshore operations, moreover, reported fake records for nonexisting transactions and made substantial loans without adequate collateral and guarantees. After the release of Falconi’s report, attacks increased against the chief government attorney, Ana Mariana Yépez, who had been investigating the case for fourteen months.”32 It is interesting to note that Filibanco was bailed out by the Ecuadorian government in 1998 at a cost of $700 million USD, the equivalent of Ecuador’s education budget.33

Indians throughout South America are often fragmented and don’t pose a serious threat to the government. Ecuador’s Indians are very different. They are an active political, at times violently dangerous force to which the Ecuadorian government and people must contend. Even though CONAIE had sought the end of the government in 2000, the new government had distanced itself from the natives as “… [the government] found itself at odds with both this movement and the traditional elite. Interestingly, at this point the regime began to emphasize its mestizo nature, opting to label itself a cholocracia [colocracy] (Perez 2003a). …The government chose to defend itself by deriding critics as oligarchs unhappy at having a ‘cholo leader.'”34 A government which derides others and cries racism after being brought into power is ironic indeed, although those claims are hardly sealed within Ecuador’s borders. Rather the government sounds desperate and it pits itself against not only a single group, but also against many of the people. However since Ecuador’s media is censored to an extent, perhaps the government thought it could get away with such ridiculous claims.

It is interesting to note what some have said. Roitman conducted a number of interviews on how the government labeled its enemies, “All this talk about oligarchies I think it’s all politics, all populism. The only way for populist governments to get to the people is to speak of oligarchs. This president [Gutierrez] speaks of the oligarchy, and the oligarchy this, and the oligarchy that, but I think it is only because he is resentful… (Carolina, Quito: 2005).”35 The elite culture had shifted from how one looked to how much wealth one had accumulated. While the wording of ‘elite’ had slightly altered definitions, it didn’t change the fact that a small group still held the majority of the power. When once it was primarily status, now it was wealth and this top-heavy disparity continued the instability as the government continued to stifle the progress of the poor.

Just five years after 2000, the troubled country continued down its destructive path. President Gutiérrez declared a state of emergency after Bucaram was returning to Ecuador after he had been cleared of various charges which he’d been waiting out in exile in Panama. Protests rose and the state of emergency was ended the very next day however the damage was done. But the Gutiérrez government caused more damage after he, “…dismiss[ed]… the same Supreme Court justices with whom he had recently packed the court.”36 Gutiérrez’s political enemies met in private session and nominated the Vice President, Alfred Palacio, as the new President. The military soon removed its protection from Gutiérrez and backed Palacio. However, Palacio couldn’t be protected for at least five hours and a civil-military junta was seriously considered by the population but when foreign governments reacted negatively, that possibility was tracked back.37 An arrest warrant was put out for Gutiérrez at which point he fled to the Brazilian embassy and from there was airlifted to Brazil for exile.

1995 to 2005 was an incredibly tumultuous time for Ecuador. Clark and Becker state it succinctly when they wrote, “…the twentieth century [in Ecuador] ended with a four-year period that saw six different governments. Indeed, between 1997 and 2005, four of nine presidents in Latin America who were removed through irregular procedures were in Ecuador.”38 A stabilizing force within Ecuador wasn’t just needed, it was a necessity.

Rafael Correa, just like nearly everyone before him, vowed to bring change. Winning in late 2006, he promised to alter the Supreme Court, dissolve Congress and rewrite the Constitution. Again, a dangerous power-hungry populist rose to the ranks at the right time. Correa’s policies were extreme as he rejected a free trade agreement with the United States and strengthened his ties to Latin America. Furthermore, he allied himself and chained Ecuador to the likes of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. And Correa did usher in a new constitution in 2008 with the people’s wishes which gave incredible power to the executive branch, directly to Rafael Correa.39

The Correa regime was incredibly adept at holding and strengthening government’s power. The only stability it brought, momentarily, was to itself as it pitted the people against one another just as the preceding governments had tried. It wasn’t one nation against the world, instead it was often one group against another for supreme power in Ecuador.

Correa hardly held himself back as he leapt upon the new constitution. He immediately removed 57 members from Congress and after Congress was in a recess, the National Assembly assumed all powers.40 Torre adds, “Correa is constantly manufacturing enemies, using a polarizing rhetoric, which makes it difficult to have a democratic dialogue.”41 Rafael Correa continued his insightful rhetoric when talking about the media, “He characterized journalists and journalism as ‘mafiosos, journalistic pornography, human wretchedness, savage beasts, and idiots who publish trash.’”42 Correa would eventually force laws which would limit the media’s power and censor it to an extent.

Thumbing the Ecuadorian thumb in the world’s eye, as seems to be an Ecuadorian staple going back more than a century, Correa also defaulted on $3 billion worth of foreign bonds. While Ecuador could pay these bonds, Correa saw it as a way of defining independence citing that governments shouldn’t have been doing business with previous governments.43 The national populism act was a boon for Correa but would hardly promote long-term stability which he didn’t seem to be concerned with. Ecuador’s welfare was neglected for his own. Around the same time, Correa also had the government take more profits from oil and taxes.

Correa had proved himself to be dangerous to not only democratic ideals, but also to stability. After assuming, essentially, near-total control by 2008, Fixing Democracy writes, “Correa turned a modest and uneven at-large power asymmetry into an unprecedented pro-Incumbent power asymmetry. First, he managed to eliminate opposition in Congress, then he sacked the Constitutional Court entirely, and finally, he obtained a massive electoral victory in the referendum. The stage was set for an election to a new constituent assembly (Montúfar 2008; The Carter Center 2008). The next step was to change the electoral rules to the constituent assembly to disfavor the Opposition, just as Chavez did in early 1999.”44 By taking these actions over just a few years, Correa was able to dismantle and fracture his opponents with the aid of an angry populace.

In foreign affairs, Correa moved toward more authoritarian allies. As previously mentioned, Venezuela was idolized, but agreements between bad actors were strengthened with Bolivia and Cuba. This was extended further with Correa’s ties with Russia. It would seem that Correa hardly cared about selling out his country, as was his excuse for distancing himself from the US, and instead sold out Ecuador to the likes of Russia, and especially China, for his own political gain.45 While authoritarians may outwardly show the country with some stability, there is always dark festering underneath. Like magma roils underneath ready to blow through a volcano’s top, so too does political dissent against power-hungry leaders.

Solidifying his hold and trying to make his people ignorant, Correa tried to buckle down the media. Even the likes of the New York and Los Angeles Times came out against Correa’s stamping on free press. Becker recited, “The San Francisco Chronicle (2012) described Ecuador as: ‘a nation ruled with a heavy hand by a lightweight dictator who seems to wish he were Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.”46 The comparison is apt. Just as other dictators idolize their predecessors, Hitler to Mussolini and Ivan the Terrible to Vlad Tepes, so too did Correa follow the disastrous, dangerous path of Hugo Chavez.

In 2012 Raphael Correa was even accused of trying to kidnap political rival, Fernando Balda. According to Correa, Balda was wanted due to a failed coup in 2010 however, Correa is the one who had to flee to Belgium after his presidency to avoid prosecution.47 The entirety of Correa’s reign wasn’t completely unsuccessful. Some cite his early economic booms but if we consider the effects of dollarization and the turmoil that Ecuador had suffered through for decades, virtually any somewhat stable government would’ve thrived in comparison. Unfortunately, while Ecuador did improve, it did not thrive. According to Decade of Reform ,”From 1995 to 2006, poverty fell by just 2.7 percent. From 2006, when Correa was elected, until 2014, poverty fell by more than 32 percent.”48 But again, this is hardly a great comparison because the economy was falling apart. This is the equivalent of giving Mussolini credit for making the trains run on time. The real question which should be asked is why did poverty not fall further after the serious earthquakes had been decades behind, dollarization was already more than a decade old, Correa had ignored billions in bonds and Correa had such a strong grasp over the entirety of government. If Correa were such a great thing for the long-term stability and freedom of the nation, his economic numbers shouldn’t been monumental.

The post-Correa years have at least shown a rejection of some of Correa’s strong-arm policies. Most notably, term limits were imposed back on the presidential seat which meant that Correa, even if he ever faced his kidnapping accusations, would never again be able to assume the role of president without yet another new constitution or coup.49 Although some of his laws against the media still exist as cited by the Carnegie Endowment, “…[the Ley Mordaza, or Organic Law on Communications] was largely seen as one of the most repressive media laws in the Western Hemisphere. Correa also used a provision intended for national emergencies to require all radio and TV channels to carry his broadcasts (called Enlace Ciudadano, or Citizen Connection), a move that recalled his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez.”50

As late as 2019, Correa has yet to change. In an interview given at jacobinmag.com, Correa continues the divisive us vs. them thought process claiming, “[The Moreno Administration] It preferred deaths, injuries, and arrests to a vote that Moreno would clearly have lost, like the servant of Washington that he is.”51 Within the same interview he also ironically decries the power of the elites, lacking completely in any self-awareness. Furthermore, Correa denies any corruption in spite of Alianza PAIS (his then-political party) being convicted of having accepted numerous bribes.52,53 Correa hardly set up Ecuador for success after his rapid departure. As of 7 April 2020 the BBC wrote, “The court found him and 19 other defendants guilty of accepting $7.5m (£6m) in bribes from private firms in exchange for state contracts. Those convicted were also banned from any political role for 25 years. Among them is his former vice-president Jorge Glas, who is already serving a six-year jail term for accepting a bribe from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.”54 The appearance of stability is there however there were strikes, protests and hands raised against Correa while he was in office. These actions have continued against current president Moreno.

Ecuador hasn’t known real stability in many decades, and even then, it could be argued that those few decades weren’t stable at all. There were moments in Ecuador’s past we couldn’t cover due to length such as Peru’s aggressive wars against Ecuador in 1941 and 1995, Ecuador having given itself away to China or detailing the porous drug border with Colombia which has allowed further destabilization. It is unfortunate for the people of Ecuador that Rafael Correa is the closest thing they’ve had to stability in at least fifty years but just because he was able to provide the appearance of stability doesn’t mean Ecuador was stable at all.

Ecuador remains an impoverished and indebted country. Instead of selling itself to the United States, it has sold itself to the Chinese. It has aligned with autocratic actors and away from democratic and prosperous ideals. Without a liberalizing government, one which Ecuador has never had, the people cannot have wealth. Without wealth they will neither have great education, great liberties or a great nation. By holding up Ecuador as an example, we can look in detail at how not only instability, but top-heavy, authoritarian governments stunt economic growth, destroy lives and ruin a nation.

Thank you for reading this article and for getting to the end. Below I have my sources along with a works cited. If you’re so inclined, donations always go a long way.

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1 Corrales, Javier. Fixing Democracy: Why Constitutional Change Often Fails to Enhance Democracy in Latin America. Oxford University Press, 2018, 6.

2 Black, Jan Knippers. Latin America: Its Problems and Its Promise. ROUTLEDGE, 2011, 426.

3 Spindler, Frank MacDonald. Nineteenth Century Ecuador: a Historical Introduction. George Mason Univ. Pr., 1987, 199.

4 Michaux, Henri. Ecuador: A Travel Journal. Marlboro Press/Northwestern, 1968, 53

5 ibid, 90

6 Striffler, Steve. Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas. Duke Univ. Press, 2005, 173.

7 Southgate, Douglas, and Lois J. Roberts. Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs: How One Banana-Exporting Country Achieved Worldwide Reach. PENN/University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016, 8.

8 Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics: a Recent History of Ecuador. SR Books, 2003, 30.

9 Striffler, Steve. In the Shadows of State and Capital: the United Fruit Company, Popular Struggle, and Agrarian Restructuring in Ecuador, 1900-1995. Duke University Press, 2002, 52.

10 Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics: A Recent History of Ecuador. SR Books, 2003, 12.

11 Southgate, Douglas, and Lois J. Roberts. Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs: How One Banana-Exporting Country Achieved Worldwide Reach. PENN/University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016, 121-3.

12 ibid, 123.

13 Black, Jan Knippers. Latin America: Its Problems and Its Promise. ROUTLEDGE, 2011, 415.

14 Sawyer, Suzana M. Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Duke University Press, 2005, 11.

15 ibid, 51.

16 ibid, 51.

17 ibid, 144.

18 Corkill, David, and David Cubitt. Ecuador: Fragile Democracy. Latin America Bureau (Research and Action), 1988, 80.

19 ibid, 94.

20 Youngers, Coletta A., and Eileen Rosin. Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: the Impact of U.S. Policy. Lynne Rienner, 2005, 233.

21 Legler, Thomas F., et al., editors. Promoting Democracy in the Americas. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007, 110.

22 Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics: a Recent History of Ecuador. SR Books, 2003, 89-90.

23 No 23… I’m not rewriting all my superscripts.

24 Arbeláez, Harvey, and Reid William Click, editors. Latin American Financial Markets: Developments in Financial Innovations, vol. 5, 2004, doi:10.1016/s1569-3767(05)05022-3, 234.

25 No 25… I’m not rewriting all my superscripts.

26 Crandall, Russell, et al. The Andes in Focus: Security, Democracy & Economic Reform. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005, 134.

27 ibid, 134.

28 ibid, 135.

29 ibid, 136.

30 Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics: A Recent History of Ecuador. SR Books, 2003, 157.

31 Petras, James F., and Henry Veltmeyer. Social Movements and State Power: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador. Pluto Press, 2005, 148.

32 Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics: A Recent History of Ecuador. SR Books, 2003, 230.

33 Silva, Eduardo. Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America. Cambridge University Press, 2009, 177.

34 Roitman, Karem. Race, Ethnicity, and Power in Ecuador: the Manipulation of Mestizaje. FirstForumPress, 2009, 91.

35 ibid, 92.

36 Legler, Thomas F., et al., editors. Promoting Democracy in the Americas. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007, 232.

37 ibid, 233.

38 Clark, A. Kim, and Marc Becker, editors. Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador. Univ Of Pittsburgh Press, 2011, 1.

39 Silva, Eduardo. Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America. Cambridge University Press, 2009, 193.

40 Torre, Carlos De La. “The People, Democracy, and Authoritarianism in Rafael Correa’s Ecuador.” Constellations, http://www.academia.edu/25324201/The_People_Democracy_and_Authoritarianism_in_Rafael_Correas_Ecuador_1_Carlos_de_la_Torre, 458.

41 ibid, 459.

42 ibid, 462.

43 Ellner, Steve, editor. Latin America’s Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty-First Century. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, 47.

44 Corrales, Javier. Fixing Democracy: Why Constitutional Change Often Fails to Enhance Democracy in Latin America. Oxford University Press, 2018, 179.

45 Astrada, Marvin L., and Félix E. Martín. Russia and Latin America: from Nation-State to Society of States. Palgrave Pivot, 2016, 32.

46 Becker, Marc. “The Stormy Relations between Rafael Correa and Social Movements in Ecuador.” Latin American Perspectives, vol. 40, no. 3, 2013, pp. 43–62. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23466004. Accessed 1 May 2021, 44.

47 “Ecuador Court Orders Ex-President Correa’s Arrest.” BBC News, BBC, 4 July 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-44706554.

48 Weisbrot, Mark, et al. Decade of Reform: Ecuador’s Macroeconomic Policies, Institutional Changes, and Results. CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY RESEARCH, Feb. 2017, cepr.net/images/stories/reports/ecuador-2017-02.pdf, 6.

49 Stuenkel, Oliver. “Is Ecuador a Model for Post-Populist Democratic Recovery?” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, carnegieendowment.org/2019/07/11/is-ecuador-model-for-post-populist-democratic-recovery-pub-79472.

50 ibid

51 Correa, Rafael, and Nicolas Allen Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “President Correa to Jacobin: ‘Clearly What Happened in Bolivia Was a Coup.’” Translated by Todd Chretien Rafael Correa, Jacobin, 16 Nov. 2019, jacobinmag.com/2019/11/bolivia-coup-evo-morales-rafael-correa-ecuador.

52 ibid

53 Rogatyuk, Denis. “Andrés Arauz Is Refusing to Let Neoliberals Bury Ecuador’s Citizens’ Revolution.” Jacobin, jacobinmag.com/2020/09/andres-arauz-ecuador-citizens-revolution.

54 “Ecuador Ex-President Correa Jailed in Absentia for Corruption.” BBC News, BBC, 7 Apr. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-52208588.

Works Cited

Arbeláez, Harvey, and Reid William Click, editors. Latin American Financial Markets: Developments in Financial Innovations, vol. 5, 2004, doi:10.1016/s1569-3767(05)05022-3.

Astrada, Marvin L., and Félix E. Martín. Russia and Latin America: from Nation-State to Society of States. Palgrave Pivot, 2016.

Becker, Marc. “The Stormy Relations between Rafael Correa and Social Movements in Ecuador.” Latin American Perspectives, vol. 40, no. 3, 2013, pp. 43–62. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23466004. Accessed 20 May 2021.

Black, Jan Knippers. LATIN AMERICA: Its Problems and Its Promise. ROUTLEDGE, 2011.

Clark, A. Kim, and Marc Becker, editors. Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador. Univ Of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.

Corkill, David, and David Cubitt. Ecuador: Fragile Democracy. Latin America Bureau (Research and Action), 1988.

Corrales, Javier. Fixing Democracy: Why Constituional Change Often Fails to Enhance Democracy in Latin America. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Correa, Rafael, and Nicolas Allen Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “President Correa to Jacobin: ‘Clearly What Happened in Bolivia Was a Coup.’” Translated by Todd Chretien Rafael Correa, Jacobin, 16 Nov. 2019, jacobinmag.com/2019/11/bolivia-coup-evo-morales-rafael-correa-ecuador.

Crandall, Russell, et al. The Andes in Focus: Security, Democracy & Economic Reform. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005.

“Ecuador Court Orders Ex-President Correa’s Arrest.” BBC News, BBC, 4 July 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-44706554.

“Ecuador Ex-President Correa Jailed in Absentia for Corruption.” BBC News, BBC, 7 Apr. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-52208588.

Ellner, Steve, editor. Latin America’s Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty-First Century. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics: a Recent History of Ecuador. SR Books, 2003.

Legler, Thomas F., et al., editors. Promoting Democracy in the Americas. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Michaux, Henri. Ecuador: a Travel Journal. Marlboro Press/Northwestern, 1968.

Petras, James F., and Henry Veltmeyer. Social Movements and State Power: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador. Pluto Press, 2005.

Rogatyuk, Denis. “Andrés Arauz Is Refusing to Let Neoliberals Bury Ecuador’s Citizens’ Revolution.” Jacobin, jacobinmag.com/2020/09/andres-arauz-ecuador-citizens-revolution.

Roitman, Karem. Race, Ethnicity, and Power in Ecuador: the Manipulation of Mestizaje. FirstForumPress, 2009.

Sawyer, Suzana M. Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Duke University Press, 2005.

Silva, Eduardo. Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Southgate, Douglas, and Lois J. Roberts. Globalized Fruit, Local Entrepreneurs: How One Banana-Exporting Country Achieved Worldwide Reach. PENN/University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

Spindler, Frank MacDonald. Nineteenth Century Ecuador: a Historical Introduction. George Mason Univ. Pr., 1987.

Striffler, Steve. Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas. Duke Univ. Press, 2005.

Striffler, Steve. In the Shadows of State and Capital: the United Fruit Company, Popular Struggle, and Agrarian Restructuring in Ecuador, 1900-1995. Duke University Press, 2002.

Stuenkel, Oliver. “Is Ecuador a Model for Post-Populist Democratic Recovery?” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, carnegieendowment.org/2019/07/11/is-ecuador-model-for-post-populist-democratic-recovery-pub-79472.

Torre, Carlos De La. “The People, Democracy, and Authoritarianism in Rafael Correa’s Ecuador.” Constellations, http://www.academia.edu/25324201/The_People_Democracy_and_Authoritarianism_in_Rafael_Correas_Ecuador_1_Carlos_de_la_Torre.

Weisbrot, Mark, et al. Decade of Reform: Ecuador’s Macroeconomic Policies, Institutional Changes, and Results. CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY RESEARCH, Feb. 2017, cepr.net/images/stories/reports/ecuador-2017-02.pdf.

Youngers, Coletta A., and Eileen Rosin. Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: the Impact of U.S. Policy. Lynne Rienner, 2005.

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