Quito A couple of days filled with meetings with the leadership of Rupture 25, an progressive political party in Ecuador working on its field operations plan for the upcoming national election next February as a crash course in the subtle politics of the country, exposing some of the contradictions in the general world view on the left branded President Rafael Correa and the hackneyed narrative about this group of current national leaders. Correa, a former economics professor, has done an outstanding job with the economy with robust annual growth rates during the current global recession.
No small amount is driven by oil. There is a long term sourcing contract with the Chinese who will buy much of what is produced from the country from 2015 to 2030. A new refinery is being built with their loans, now totally $8 billion last year. Spain which was investing $250 million a year, is now investing less than $2 million given the hardships in that country. At lunch today, we watched a large delegation of Korean business people leave from the backroom. They are also big players here. There is talk to moving away from the oil economy, but that takes years as well.
Similar to the conversations we had recently heard in Bolivia, there was some disappointment by progressives inside the country with Correa. One observer felt that 90% of what Correa was doing, particularly with the economy, was great, but that “10% is driving people away,” and this particularly had to do with human rights, press freedom, and other critical democratic norms. Rupture 25 had been in a coalition with the President’s party, heading four departments, with 100 members working in government, and 90 left en masse in protest of policy directions.
Julian Assange and the Correa nose thumbing move to provide him sanctuary in London was a non-issue and a yawner in Ecuador. Many felt this was just another split screen perspective that played huge worldwide but had no impact inside the country.
Nonetheless, there was no indication despite a number of parties assembling in the field and candidates including some very well financed, including a banker with a network of over 1000 microlending branches around Ecuador, that Correa was in any serious trouble facing re-election. I listened to one conversation where the argument was whether he would win in the first round or have a runoff, but consensus seemed to say he would be back.
The politics seem less right or left, but open government versus consolidated and centralized power. There’s mandatory voting (hurrah!) and a robust and contentious election ahead, and this will be another country worth watching as a harbinger of the future.