[News] Historic Victory in Ecuador

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 1 12:13:25 EDT 2007


http://www.counterpunch.org/burbach10012007.html

October 1, 2007


Left Triumphs, Nation's Institutions to be Transformed


Historic Victory in Ecuador

By ROGER BURBACH

"We have won an historic victory," proclaimed 
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador. On Sunday the 
political coalition he heads won an overwhelming 
majority of the seats in the Constituent Assembly 
that is tasked with "refounding" the nation's 
institutions. Taking office early this year in a 
land slide victory, Correa has repeatedly called 
for an opening to a "new socialism of the twenty- 
first century," declaring that Ecuador has to end 
"the perverse system that has destroyed our 
democracy, our economy and our society." His 
government marks the emergence of a radical 
anti-neoliberal axis in South America, comprising 
Venezuela, Bolivia and now Ecuador.

"The Assembly elections are a devastating blow 
for the oligarchs and the right wing political 
parties who have historically pulled the strings 
on a corrupt state that includes Congress and the 
Supreme Court," says Alejandro Moreano, a 
sociologist and political analyst at the Andean 
University Simon Bolivar in Quito. Even Michel 
Camdesseus, the former director of the 
International Monetary Fund, once commented that 
Ecuador is characterized "by an incestuous 
relation between bankers, political-financial 
pressure groups and corrupt government officials."

The victory in the Constituent Assembly is the 
result of years of agitation and struggle by 
Ecuador's indigenous and social movements along 
with an unorganized, largely middle-class 
movement of people known as the "forajidos," an 
Ecuadoran term meaning outlaws or bandits who 
rebel against the established system. In March 
when the Congress and the right wing political 
parties tried to sabotage the elections for the 
Assembly, tens of thousands of demonstrators took 
to the streets of Quito, blocking the entrances 
to Congress and backing the disbarment of the 
Congressional members who wanted to suppress the elections.

The "Country Movement," the popular political 
coalition lead by Correa, will convene the 
Assembly at the end of October. Its charge is to 
draft a new constitution that will break up the 
dysfunctional state, establish a plurinational, 
participatory democracy, reclaim Ecuadoran 
sovereignty, and use the state to create social 
and economic institutions that benefit the 
people. One of its first acts will be to abolish the existent Congress.

The Assembly will also facilitate an 
international realignment of Ecuador's 
international relations. The Correa government 
has already moved assertively in its relations 
with the United States. María Fernanda Espinosa, 
the dynamic Minister of Foreign Relations, 
declared that Ecuador intends to close the U.S. 
military base located at Manta, the largest of 
its kind on South America's Pacific coast. 
"Ecuador is a sovereign nation," she said. "We do 
not need any foreign troops in our country." The 
treaty for the base expires in 2009 and will not be renewed.

Thus far there have been no direct confrontations 
with the United States, but the Pentagon has 
manifested its displeasure. Every year since 
1959, the US Southern Command, together with the 
Pacific coast nations of South America, have 
undertaken joint naval exercises called Unitas. 
This year they were to be hosted in Ecuador, but 
the United States opted to conduct them in 
Colombia, its closest regional ally. Ecuador 
responded by announcing it would not participate 
in this year's exercises, with Correa 
proclaiming, "It appears the Southern Command 
believes we are a colony of the United States, 
that our navy is just one more unit controlled by their country."

Correa is also standing up to Occidental 
Petroleum, a U.S.-based corporation whose 
Ecuadoran holdings were taken over by state-owned 
PetroEcuador last year for selling off some of 
its assets to a Canadian company in violation of 
its contract with the Ecuadoran state. With the 
takeover of Occidental's holdings, PetroEcuador 
now controls more than half of the country's 
petroleum exports, which themselves account for 
about 40% of Ecuador's total exports and one 
third of government revenues. Correa has 
denounced Occidental's "lobbying" of the Bush 
administration to regain its holdings. "We are 
not going to allow an arrogant, portentous 
transnational that doesn't respect Ecuadoran laws 
to harm our country," he said.

At the same time, Ecuador is negotiating special 
bilateral trade and economic agreements with 
presidents Chávez and Morales. Venezuela has 
agreed to refine Ecuadoran oil and help fund 
social programs in Ecuador, while the Bolivian 
government has concluded an agreement to import 
foodstuffs from small- and medium-size producers 
in Ecuador. Correa has also signed several 
petroleum accords with Venezuela, of which the 
most important is a $4 billion project for a 
refinery backed by PetroEcuador and the Venezuelan state petroleum company.

Alejandro Moreano of the Andean University 
worries that "that all of the interests involved 
in the Country Movement may not back the tough 
steps needed to end neo-liberalism and bring the 
banks and multinationals under control. This will 
depend on the strength of popular mobilizations 
as the Assembly undertakes its work." For his 
part Correa has repeatedly denounced the private 
banks in Ecuador for their exorbitant 
profit-taking and high interest rates. And he has 
expelled Ecuador's World Bank representative for 
meddling in the country's affairs and has 
virtually terminated the country's relations with 
the International Monetary Fund.

There is already a steady drum beat by the 
indigenous and popular movements to have the 
Constituent Assembly take over all multinational 
mining interests. In early June, the local 
populace in the gold-mining southern highland 
province of Azuay, backed by environmental and 
human rights organizations, blockaded major 
highways, demanding the expropriation of the 
mining companies, many of which are controlled by 
transnational corporations that have polluted 
local rivers and aquifers. Alberto Acosta, an 
internationally renowned anti-neoliberal 
economist who will be president of the 
Constituent Assembly, met with the protesters. He 
told them the mining concessions couldn't be 
annulled outright. "This is a task of the 
Constituent Assembly," he said. "It can establish 
a legal framework that will enable us to revise 
all the concessions." This month on October 22 a 
national mobilization will take place that will 
call upon the Assembly to nationalize all foreign 
mining interests in the country.

Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the 
Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting 
Scholar at the Institute of International 
Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He 
is co-author with Jim Tarbell of 
"<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1842774972/counterpunchmaga>Imperial 
Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of 
Empire," His latest book is: 
"<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1842774352/counterpunchmaga>The 
Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice."




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