[News] Ecuadors Economy Under Rafael Correa: Twenty-First Century Socialism or the New-Extractivism?
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 12 16:09:20 EDT 2010
Ecuadors Economy Under Rafael Correa:
Twenty-First Century Socialism or the
New-Extractivism? An Inteview with Alberto Acosta
Written by Jeffery R. Webber
Monday, 12 July 2010 09:54
I spoke with Alberto Acosta, ex-Minister of
Energy and Mines, and ex-President of the
Constituent Assembly, in his Quito office on July 8, 2010.
Jeffery R. Webber: In a few words, can you
describe your political formation and political trajectory?
Alberto Acosta: Im an economist. Ive worked as
an international consultant and as a university
professor. Ive been an advisor to social
movements, to the indigenous movement. Ive been
involved in various struggles in the last few
years which are trying to build a country based
in equality, liberty, and justice. In the early
part of the Rafael Correa government, I was the
Minister of Energy and Mines and the President of the Constituent Assembly.
JW: As a former Minister of Energy and Mines, can
you talk about the strengths and weaknesses of
the economic model being advanced by the Correa
government in the current conjuncture?
AA: We cant talk about the economic development
model of only this government. Stretching way
back, Ecuador has had a model of accumulation
based on the extraction of natural resources.
Ecuador has been a country based in the
production of bananas, flowers, shrimp, and oil,
and there are people who now believe that it can
be a country based in mining production.
In reality, weve been living off the rent of
nature. In the last few decades, since the 1970s,
Ecuador has had as its principal source of
revenue the exploitation of oil the extraction
of crude oil and the export of oil into the
international market. This is a fundamental
characteristic of the Ecuadorean economy. And
this has not changed substantively under the government of Correa.
Its true that hes sought greater participation
of the state in generating the oil rent. Theres
been a certain increase of state control over oil
activities. Theres been an attempt to increase
the efficiency and to strengthen the state oil
company. And the states greater take of the oil
rent has allowed for improvements in education, health, and social welfare.
But at the root of things, the fact that Ecuador
has an economy dependent on natural resources has
not been altered, and we remain highly dependent
on our insertion into the world market.
JW: You were also President of the Constituent
Assembly. Can you talk about this process, and
the advances and setbacks related to the new Constitution.
AA: The new constitution opened the door for a
series of profound changes. Its statutes
guarantee the construction of a plurinational
state. This means the incorporation for the first
time of marginalized groups, like indigenous
peoples and nationalities, and Afro-Ecuadoreans.
The constitution mandates respect for their
unique ways of life and community organizing, and
a new way of structuring the state in general.
The Constitution also commits the country to
living well, or sumak kawsay, in Quichua, which
is an entirely distinct way of understanding
development. Its another form of development.
Its an alternative to development, an
alternative not within development, but an
entirely different concept to development. Along
these lines, the Constitution guarantees the
rights of nature. Nature is a subject with rights
in the Constitution. Ecuadors Constitution is
the only one in the world with this characteristic.
The Constitution also notes that water is a
fundamental human right, not just access to
water, but water itself. Water is a strategic
patrimony. Water is part of biodiversity. It is central to nature.
JW: How do you explain the contrast between, on
the one hand, the rhetoric of the Correa
government citizens revolution,
twenty-first century socialism and, on the
other, the tense relations, often open clashes,
between this government and prominent social movements?
AA: These phrases, citizens revolution and
twenty-first century socialism, have to be
understood in their full context. Socialism of
the twenty-first century has absolutely no
meaning. It has no meaning. We need to rescue
socialism from the errors of the last century,
but we cant do this by promoting some kind of
new age socialism. For me, twenty-first century
socialism has no meaning, it is pure rhetoric.
The phrase citizens revolution is what popular
struggles in Ecuador proposed and struggled for
beginning in 2006 and 2007. Lamentably, it would
appear that the Correa government has its doubts
about making a revolution in reality. The very
things this government proposed initially it is
failing to make a reality; it is failing to
respect the integral components of the new
Constitution. This is the crucial thing to take note of.
At the moment, the citizens revolution suffers
from a major deficit of citizens involvement.
JW: And the contradictions with the social
movements, the indigenous movements, government
accusations of terrorism and sabotage?
AA: I believe that these types of accusations are
tremendously shameful for the country. They have
no basis in justice or a democratic judicial
system. Even during the period of the neoliberal
governments, when social movements and the
indigenous movement were massively involved in
protests there were never accusations of
terrorism. This is a question that is putting the
citizens revolution itself at risk. It would
appear that there are forces that are configuring
themselves in a type of counter-revolution, without citizenship.
JW: For Canadian readers, can you describe some
of the conflicts in the mining sector, and the
role of Canadian companies, because they have a
massive presence in this country.
AA: Without a doubt. Look, Canadian companies
have been very active in this country for some
years. One could say that Canadian companies were
the primary beneficiaries of the new disposition
of the mining laws throughout the early 2000s.
These laws were meant to strengthen the presence
of mining companies in Ecuador. This was a
project pushed forward by the World Bank, and
which received support from the governments of
that epoch. Were talking about the neoliberal epoch.
Canadian companies were the ones who took
advantage of the new laws with the greatest
enthusiasm, to invest in Ecuador. Canadian
companies have expanded their presence in various
regions of the country. In the Cordillera de
Condor, in the Intag Valley, and elsewhere.
Theyve managed to win a huge number of mining
concessions. Ecuador gave out over 5,000
concessions in an irresponsible manner, without
any controls or criteria. The great majority of
these concessions were concentrated in the hands
of just a few companies, Canadian companies.
We can also see how some Canadian companies, such
as Ascendant Copper, have tried to impose their
objectives in an authoritarian manner in the
country. They have established schemes of
paramilitarism, in order to divide the
communities of Intag, to intimidate these
communities, and to impose mining activities.
I was personally a witness to how this company
mobilized people to protest against my presence
as Minister of Energy and Mines at the time
because my politics ran against this type of
corruption. I remember receiving threats and
having rocks thrown at me during a meeting in the
city of Ibarra, in the province of Imbabura. We
saw how they acted, and how they threatened the
communities. Thanks to the struggles of these
very communities, and the actions of the Ministry
of Energy and Mines at the time, we managed to
disarm these paramilitaries, and achieved some
justice. But there are still many problems in the
region. I believe its important to highlight
these events and what they signify.
JW: Shifting themes, weve seen a shift to the
left in Latin America full of contradictions,
but nonetheless a shift over the last decade.
What has Ecuadors role been inside this regional turn to the Left?
AA: There has been a series of very interesting
processes in Latin America in Venezuela,
Bolivia, and Ecuador. However, none of these new
processes have managed to overcome the economic
structures of extractivism. Bolivia continues to
be dependent, even more dependent than before, on
natural gas. Bolivia is making concerted efforts
to extend oil, gas, and mineral extraction. In
Ecuador the orientation is toward ongoing
exploitation of oil. Although, one has to
highlight the proposals of Ecuador to leave the
oil under the ground in the National Park of
Yasuni, which is positive. But, in general, its
clear that there is no coherent position against
the extractive model. There is a lot of talk of
transformation and revolution, but it continues to be more of the same.
As I suggested, I dont think theres anything to
what theyre calling socialism of the
twenty-first century. What were witnessing
instead is a neo-extractivism of the twenty-first century.
JW: In the long term, what does Ecuador need to
change in its development model?
AA: What we need to do in the medium- to
long-term is overcome this model of accumulation.
We need another way to organize the economy,
which is not so dependent on the exploitation of
natural resources. We need to move from an
extractive economic model, to one based in the
knowledge, and forces, and needs of human beings,
individual and collective. We also need another
way of inserting ourselves into the world market
that is more intelligent than simply providing
raw materials. We need to start producing other
kinds of products for the international market.
But more than anything, fundamentally, we need to
strengthen the internal market and to strengthen
regional integration in Latin America. Ecuador
needs to break with the extreme concentration of
assets and income, and change the pattern. We
need to achieve equality if there is to be
justice and freedom. This is what we need. And
this requires a lot of democracy. Always more democracy, and never less.
Jeffery R. Webber teaches politics at the
University of Regina. He is the author of Red
October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern
Bolivia (Brill, 2010), and Rebellion to Reform in
Bolivia: Class Struggle, Indigenous Liberation
and the Politics of Evo Morales (Haymarket, 2011).
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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