[News] Correa and Ecuador’s Left: An Interview with Marc Becker

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 12 12:43:12 EST 2013

    Correa and Ecuador’s Left: An Interview with Marc Becker

Posted on February 12, 2013 
by kenklippenstein <http://whiterosereader.org/author/kenklippenstein/>

/Marc Becker is an associate professor of Latin American Studies at 
Truman State University.  He has worked with indigenous movements and 
has written widely on social and indigenous movements in Latin America.  
  He is the cofounder of Nativeweb, an educational organization 
dedicated to using technology to disseminate information from and about 
indigenous issues and foster communication between native and non-native 
peoples. /

*Paul Gottinger:*  In the US Rafael Correa is portrayed as a leftist, 
but in Ecuador some of the Indigenous movements and other leftist social 
forces accuse him of implementing neoliberal policies.  How would you 
characterize his policies?

*Marc Becker:* I’ve long worked with leftist indigenous movements in 
Latin America, so in a lot of these issues I follow along with their 
interpretations. But, calling Rafael Correa a neoliberal is maybe an 
overstatement, or a bit polemical.  A better question is whether he has 
completely broken from the neoliberal patterns.  Correa presents himself 
as a leftist and the question here is what exactly does he mean by 
that.  A concern here is that he comes out of a technocratic, academic, 
pragmatic left, rather than a social movement-left.  This is a 
distinction that some activists make.  The electoral-left versus a 
social movement-left.

*PG:*  How does Correa balance his image as a leftist when has tried to 
implement water privatization, continues with oil exploration and 
mining, and other policies similar to Ecuador’s previous presidents? And 
how do these policies affect his relationship with the indigenous 
communities and movements?

*MB:*  There are two different visions, that go back for decades, and 
there is this  indigenous critique that says the left is part of the 
same old European forms of modernization that inform capitalism.  Correa 
is very much in that line.  He embraces an extractivist modernization 
type of mentality.  Part of the problem you’re seeing in Ecuador is that 
contradicts directly with what was codified in the 2008 constitution, 
which was supposed to incorporate indigenous sensibilities.  This is 
particularly true in terms of plurinationalism and /sumak kawsay/ (the 
good life).  This is supposed to incorporate alternative visions of 
development and Correa wants to see those exclusively on the levels of 
symbolic statements rather than something that will be operationalized.  
That’s the problem we’re seeing with the indigenous movements.  They 
don’t see this as something symbolic, but something that needs to be 
operationalized and put into practice.

*PG:*  Are many of the indigenous movements anti-development?

*MB:* They would not say that and their allies would not say that.  The 
difference is talking about what’s sustainably and what’s not 
sustainable.  One place where it really struck me was at the world 
social forum in 2005 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  Hugo Chavez came and he 
gave a talk where for the first time he defined himself as a socialist.  
He laid this out really clearly.  He basically said he have two paths 
that we can follow, socialism or death.  If we continue to follow along 
the capitalist framework we will destroy the planet.  The planet cannot 
sustain this extractivist, commodity based, development at all cost 
mentality.  It will lead to death. The other option is to look for more 
sustainable ways of surviving.  Chavez defined the sustainable path with 
socialism.  He’s saying we need to figure out a better way to survive on 
this planet or we will destroy the planet and human life as we know it.  
The indigenous critique is of this development at all costs model that 
the Chinese and Correa are following.  So, its not anti-moderization, 
anti-development mentality.  It’s saying look there are more important 
things than modernization and development at all costs if that going to 
end up destroying the world in which we live.  In a nutshell that’s what 
the /sumak kawsay/ is about.  It’s saying how can we develop in a 
sustainable way.  That’s really the debate that is going on in Ecuador 
around mineral and petroleum extraction and water usages. Is there 
alternative ways to pursue these issues in a way that is sustainable and 
benefits everybody?  Rather than saying we are going to modernize our 
country even if it ends up destroying it, which is what the indigenous 
left accuses Correa of following.

*PG:*  How do you see Correa’s relationship to the non-indigenous left 
in Ecuador?  Is it substantially different than his relationship to the 
indigenous left?

*MB:*  The people who seem to be most opposed to Correa’s policies are 
what I would call the ‘center-left’.  A social democratic-left or 
moderate-left.  For the most part I would group most indigenous 
movements in to that category.  I think it’s a mistake to see the 
indigenous movements as separate from the broader political phenomena in 
Latin America.  That’s for a variety of reasons.  The are Indigenous 
movements and I use the plural intentionally because the indigenous 
movements are not homogenous .  There’s multiple positions here.  So, 
there’s not really an indigenous position.  In the upcoming elections on 
February 17 there is this conservative, evangelical indigenous 
communities that will probably vote heavily for Lucio Gutierrez the more 
conservative candidate, or what I would characterize as the neoliberal 
candidate.  There are also other wings of the indigenous movement, 
particularly in the Amazon, that would be characterized as 
anti-modernization and anti-development left.  In the groups that I work 
with there’s a dominant center left position that is looking for how to 
develop Ecuador along the lines that benefit all of Ecuador and not just 
the indigenous movements.  In many ways the argument would be that we’re 
not doing this just for indigenous peoples, or even just Ecuador, but 
we’re doing this for the world as a whole.  The indigenous movements 
have become some of his strongest opposition from the left because they 
have historically been the best-organized sectors of Ecuador.  There are 
also the remnants of what I would call a Stalinist-left.  That strongly 
supports Correa and these are people who are Stalinists in the sense 
that they are advocating for strong government structures as a way to 
solve problems.  Correa is providing, really for the first time, an 
example of somebody that is making strong use of government structures 
in order to improve society.  A lot of his support comes from that part 
of the left.  Then there is another part, which I could call the 
technocratic-left, NGO- left, academic-left.  I wouldn’t say a lot of 
these people are ideologically committed to a leftist agenda.  They’re 
more a group of people who are technocrats that are taking advantage of 
the government that’s currently in power in order to position themselves 
into positions of power.  Some of these people who have positions of 
power in Correa’s government have long been in government and have 
worked with previous neoliberal governments.   This is where Correa 
comes out of.  He’s never been part of the leftist political party, he’s 
never been an activist, or involved in social struggles.  He has the 
outlook of how can we solve problems with technocratic solutions.  The 
left that is opposing the Stalinist and technocratic-left is a social 
movement-left that is more committed to a participatory left.  They are 
committed to trying to mobilize people and involve people in political 
processes.  Some people see them as more of an anarchistic-left because 
of their opposition to strong state structures and opposition to 
authoritarianism.  I don’t think in the Ecuadorian case it’s really 
proper to characterize this segment of the left in that way.  There are 
some anarchistic tendencies there, but for the most part it’s not really 
an anarchistic model similar to the Zapatistas in Chiapas.   The 
influences and ideas are a little bit different.

*PG:*  One thing that strikes me is how much variation and how 
well-developed and dynamic the left is in Ecuador when compared to the 
left in the US.  Is this something that has always been the case?

*MB:* Its something that’s always been the case.  My research focuses on 
the 1920s and 1930s.  A key moment is when the socialist party is 
founded in Quito in 1926 because globally we see three main trends in 
the left.   The anarchist wing, like the Wobblies (IWW).  There’s the 
Marxist-left and a utopian-socialist-left.  Marxism states you need a 
class struggle between the workers and owners to achieve socialism.  
   Utopian-Socialism states socialism will magically appear.  These 
three tendencies form the modern-left and in Ecuador there are two other 
tendencies which are strong influences here.  One is radical 
liberalism.  These are people who break from 19^th century liberalism 
and are looking for more radical structural solutions.  In Ecuador there 
is strong presence of an indigenous left that persists until the 
present.  Its those five tendencies that formed the Socialist Party in 
1926 and for a moment they worked together, but very quickly they broke 
apart.  What’s interesting is that they didn’t break apart along the 
same lines that they came together. In Ecuador the communists and 
socialists fragmented over the idea whether this was a national or 
international struggle.  The Communists wanted to ally with Communist 
International and the socialists didn’t want to adhere to an 
international line.  There was a third wing, which was a vanguardist 
wing that was associated with military socialism.  That’s the type of 
trend that Hugo Chavez comes out of.  Subsequently, those three 
tendencies have fragmented along other lines.  The communist-left 
fragmented into pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese tendencies and parts of that 
are still apparent.  The socialists broke into three wings. A right, 
left and center.  You see this in Chile, for example, with Salvador 
Allende.  As a socialist he was to the left of the communists. That’s 
the case in Ecuador as well.  There was a revolutionary-socialist wing 
that was more radical than the communist wing.  The strongest and 
best-organized wing of the indigenous movement was aligned with the 
pro-Soviet/Stalinist wing of the communist party.  That is probably 
because of the structure that they brought to organizing patterns.  So, 
the current indigenous movements are influenced by this history.  But, 
for the most part the indigenous movements haven’t followed the remnants 
of the Stalinist wing into support of the Correa administration.  There 
is very little indigenous presence in Correa’s administration.  There’s 
really a Western mentality that excludes indigenous voices in the 
administration of the Ecuadorian state.

*PG:*  Ecuador has such a healthy left!  There is so much nuance and 
division where in the US the left is really scattered by comparison.

*MB:* People often lay out reasons why the US never has as strong of a 
left as other places, but I don’t find any of the usual excuses 
convincing.  I think it’s a matter of what kind of world we want to 
create.  One thing I find really inspiring about studying indigenous 
movements in Latin America, and social movements in general, is the 
intelligence, determination, and willingness to create alternative 
structures.  The Correa administration very much emerges out of this 
trend.  There is always a danger in criticizing Correa if it strengthens 
the common enemies on the right, particularly the oligarchy.  One way 
you see the mainstream indigenous movements in Ecuador being very 
politically aware of this is that they will never make alliances with 
oligarchical right against Correa because they want to push Correa to 
the left and they don’t want to undermine their historic left 
interests.  This is something we see in the US as well.  How to we push 
Barak Obama to the left without strengthening the right.  It’s a common 
concern that faces the social movement-left when confronting electoral 
politics and the inevitable compromises politicians have to make.

*PG:* What’s your guess at how Correa sees the indigenous movements and 
the social forces to his left?

*MB:* The Correa administration occupies political and social spaces 
that indigenous movements previously occupied.  He appears to view them 
as a political opponent.  He sees it as something to combat.  If you 
look at this as part of a broader phenomenon its not at all unique.  For 
example, in Chiapas, Mexico there’s a struggle between  subcomandante 
Marcos and Bishop Ruiz over who is going to lead the masses.  There’s a 
competition there.  It’s not exactly the same as in Ecuador, but it is a 
similar type of dynamic.  The question is: are the social movements 
going to set the agenda, or is Correa going to set the agenda?  In some 
ways Correa seems to see it as a zero sum game.  I don’t think it is the 
best way to see it.  In the 2006 election when Correa won.  Pachakutik 
(the indigenous party) pulled 2%.  This time it looks like they’re on 
line to pull maybe about 5%.  Correa says: this is an insignificant 
percentage of the population and I don’t need to bring it into my 
coalition as an electoral calculation to gain power.  In fact, my 
collogues in Ecuador say that since Correa was elected there’s been an 
increase of racist incidents and racism in general.  This is a 
phenomenon we see elsewhere, like Columbia for example.  The indigenous 
movements are so well-organized that they gain political space that 
exceeds their numerical representation in the country.  In the Ecuador 
there is a certain amount of resentment by non-indigenous of indigenous 
for gaining political power and political space.  It appears that Correa 
plays the race card and plays into the latent racist attitudes of the 
dominant population of white and mestizo people.  You see this in 
Correa’s rhetoric.  He says very nasty things about indigenous people, 
environmentalists, and what he terms ultra-leftists.  He seems to make 
these statements in order to shore up his electoral support among other 
sectors of the population.  It’s a populist strategy to cement his 
electoral support rather than mobilizing the population as a social 
movement. That’s what concerns a lot of us.

*PG: * Why is the indigenous left so well organized compared to other 
sectors of the left in Ecuador?

*MB: *Some of it is a matter of leadership, such as who emerges and who 
is able to organize a sector of society.  Part of it is an economic and 
social context that provides a situation where you can organize 
effectively.  Part of it is a historical trajectory and momentum.  Part 
of it is the ability to make effective use of discourse.  There have 
been times where the indigenous movements have made very good use of the 
nationalist discourse in order to mobilize people.  The nationalist 
discourse hasn’t been as effective at making structural changes, or 
addressing class based issues.  One of the reasons why Ecuador’s 
indigenous movements have been so successful is because they are able to 
intersect issues of racial discrimination with class oppression.  
Weaving together multiple issues in a way that imagines another world 
and that addresses oppression on a variety of levels.  So, there’s a 
series of practical, personal, ideological, and economic conditions that 
converge and lead to these indigenous organization.

*PG:*  How have Correa’s policies impacted the urban poor and how have 
they impacted the rural or indigenous poor?

*MB:* For the urban poor Correa’s policies have been the best things.  I 
would say Correa is the best president that Ecuador has ever had.  In 
ways that says more about the other presidents than about Correa.  In 
the history of the world I would say there are very few presidents that 
have made really positive contributions to their societies.  So, it’s 
important to understand Correa’s policies in this context.  A lot of 
Correa’s policies have resulted in demonstrable improvements for the 
urban poor.  There are a couple criticisms though.  One is that there is 
human development bond, which is like welfare payments.  This was 
recently increased form $35 dollars a month to $50.  The social 
movement-left says: this is nothing more than neoliberalism.  This is 
just handouts rather than dealing with structural problems in society.  
These types of polices play really well in terms of bringing the urban 
poor into Correa’s coalition.  The social movement-left criticizes this 
as being a populist strategy.  This is a broader theme in Latin America 
where there is historically a lot of tension between populists and 
Marxists.  The populists are appealing to the economic interests of the 
population that seemingly should provide the base of support for a 
Marxist class based movement.  But, the populists use this rhetoric to 
supplant this.  In Ecuador this has historically been a problem.  Correa 
has been far better about this than past populists at using this 
discourse, these handouts, and these policies in order to mobilize the 
electoral base.  This is in contrast to past presidents never doing 
anything to actually benefit the people.  I think this is some of 
Correa’s longevity.  He actually follows through on welfare payments to 
the lower classes.  While poverty rates, inequality, extreme poverty, 
illiteracy, all of these socio-economic indicators are moving in very 
positive directions in terms of the urban poor.  But, Correa’s policies 
are not having that impact among the rural poor.  One interpretation is 
that Correa isn’t interested in the rural poor because they provided the 
base of support for the indigenous movements.  These are his political 
opponents, so why cater to them.  Some people say it’s because of the 
demographic shift and this is electoral calculation.  In Ecuador, as is 
the rest of the world, is becoming increasingly urbanized, so rural 
issues like agrarian reform don’t have the electoral importance that 
they previously had.  The most recent numbers I’ve seen indicate that 
the socio-economic indicators are improving in the countryside, while 
initially they were going backwards.  So, there may have been a lag there.

*PG: * How have indigenous and general left protests move Correa’s 
policies to the left and what has been Correa’s response to the protests?

*MB:* For me this is really a key issue.  This is something that 
indigenous and social movements across Latin America have faced.  About 
5 years ago the thinking really shifted. If we look back at the 
neoliberal 90s the social movements always provided the check against 
neoliberal policies.  We see this in Ecuador where these social 
movements have pulled down governments that were ruling against their 
class interests.  But, the problem is if you pull down a government that 
ruled against your class interest and you don’t have a positive 
alternative to implement, then a new neoliberal government comes into 
place.  This is what dragged social movements into the electoral realm.  
There was a need to create a positive concrete alternative.  In the era 
of Guerilla warfare this wasn’t an issue.  For instance, in the Cuban 
revolution they organized a guerilla war and overthrew the government 
and put themselves in power, but social movements aren’t able to do that 
because they’re not organized along that type of structure.  About 5 
years ago there emerged a common slogan in the indigenous movements 
across the entire continent, which was ‘From Protest to Proposal’.  It 
was this idea that we’re no longer protesting policies we disagree with, 
but we’re putting forward concrete proposals.  That’s been driving 
this.  This has really been frustrated in Ecuador.  The social movements 
have provided checks on implementing policy.  If it weren’t for the 
social movements the Correa administration would be farther right.  In 
that way their results are positive.  But, to take an entirely different 
example there has been languishing in the congress for two years or 
three years now a law to reform the media system, which would open up 
more space for community media.  But, the legislation never gets 
passed.  This is just one specific example of how implementing 
legislation like that would really benefit social movements and society 
in general by making it a more participatory society.  The proposal is 
supposed to divide the media into 3 parts: the private media, state 
owned media, and community media.  The community media, in terms of 
creating participatory governance is something that Ecuador is really 
missing and the social movements are pushing for it.  This is part of 
the problem with Correa.  He would have to give up control and he’s not 
willing to give up that type of control over those structures.

*PG:*  Could you talk about the 2010 coup attempt against Correa?  
Specifically who was responsible for it and to what degree was police 
benefit reduction really behind it?

*MB:* This is something that is going to be debated forever because 
there is contradictory information that comes out.  There are different 
perspectives on what happened on September 30, 2010.  It appears that it 
started as a police protest that got out of hand.  One interpretation of 
why it escalated is that Correa showed up the barracks where the police 
where protesting and they weren’t expecting that.  So, some people blame 
him for putting democracy at risk.  There is a protest and the president 
goes wading into the middle of it thinking he can calm them down.  There 
is a conspiracy theory that Correa engineered this in order to 
strengthen his political hand.  But, there’s no evidence for that.  
Though, Correa and the police did come out of this strengthened.  The 
police got what they wanted.  One of the main accusations against Correa 
at that time was that this police benefit reduction was an example of 
his neoliberal governance.  Some of the Maoists in Ecuador made an 
alliance with the police saying: the police are workers and we’re going 
to defend their interests as workers. But, the part of the Maoists that 
came out in support of the police was really criticized by other wings 
of the social movements.  The social movements stated that: historically 
the police are oppressors and our class enemies and we’re not going to 
defend them.  If given the choice we’ll defend Correa and electoral 
democracy over repressive aspects of state administrations.  I alternate 
between amused and bothered by how often the September 30 police protest 
gets talked about more broadly in activist circles.  Often, this is 
simplistically represented as another example of US imperial over-reach 
into Latin America. The curious thing about that is that throughout this 
entire process Correa made very warm overtures to US Secretary of State 
Hilary Clinton and US President Obama.  Apparently, Obama called Correa 
personally and said: we’re opposed to these moves against your 
government.  On the day of the alleged coup attempt Clinton made a 
statement strongly supporting Correa.  In the run up to the upcoming 
February 17 election Correa has made statements that ‘Rogue elements in 
the CIA are conspiring against his government’.  This isn’t a direct 
quote, but the gist of what he said is even though these are rogue 
elements Barak Obama supports me.  This incident simplistically gets 
filtered into leftist activist circles as the US government opposes 
Rafael Correa in Ecuador.  Which isn’t at all what Correa is saying.  It 
leads to an interesting spin in Ecuador.  Those on Correa’s left accuse 
him of not being sufficiently anti-imperialist or even sufficiently 
politically conscience of how the US would negotiate against his 
government.  What troubles me is that there is a really ironic situation 
where the international anti-imperialist-left opposes the Ecuadorian 
domestic anti-imperialist left, and where the Ecuadorian 
anti-imperialist left opposes Correa because he’s not sufficiently leftist.

*PG:*  So, in your opinion you don’t think the US had anything to do 
with the coup attempt?

*MB:* Rafael Correa is quite clear that he doesn’t think that it is the 
case that the US president or the US secretary of state was behind or 
supported the coup attempt.  There is a whole academic literature which 
talks about how Ecuador US relations are more horizontal than they are 
in say Guatamala for example.  This is outside the US sphere of 
influence and the US doesn’t have strategic interests there.  
International activists talk about the 2010 coup attempt being payback 
for throwing out the US from MANTA air force base.  I see absolutely no 
evidence for that being the case.  Correa said we’re not renewing the 
base.  The US just left.  The US, from what I can tell, recognized 
Ecuadorian sovereignty.   This is not the same as the US leaving Vieques 
in Puerto Rico for example.  We’re in an entirely different part of the 
world.  There’s a different dynamic and different situation.  In fact, 
the MANTA base was on a ten year lease.  There are serious questions 
that when the agreement for the base was signed that it was an illegal 
treaty entered into by the state of Ecuador.  There was a significant 
segment of the left who argued that the treaty needed to be abrogated on 
Correa’s part and not just let lapse.  They argue that when he came to 
power he should have said this is an illegal treaty and we need to stop 
it right now.  He was in power for 2 years and 2 months before he let 
the treaty lapse.  The anti-imperialist-left wanted to take a more 
aggressive stand against the United States because Ecuador was forced to 
sign this treaty.  They believed it was a violation of  not only 
Ecuadorian sovereignty, but of the legal system.  In comparison to that 
position Correa has taken a much more pragmatic or moderate position 
then what his left opposition wants.

*PG:*  I’ve heard prominent writers on the left say they believed the US 
was behind the September 30 coup attempt.

*MB:* I’ve studied Ecuador for a long time and other writers will 
extract things that they know to be true in other parts of Latin America 
and apply them to Ecuador without understanding the uniqueness of the 
Ecuadorian situation.  Politically, I agree with these writers and I 
appreciate their intent.  But, if you look at it from an academic 
prospective it simply doesn’t jive with what we know about Ecuador’s 
history.  There’s a long history here of the US negotiating these types 
of things with Ecuador.  There appears to be a pattern where because 
Ecuador is a small, insignificant country it can get away with things 
that larger countries, like Chile, for example, or countries closer to 
the US, like Guatamala, couldn’t get away with.  People end up 
misunderstanding what’s happening in Ecuador because they’re not 
familiar with the specifics of the situation in Ecuador.

*PG: * How do you see Ecuador’s degree of independence from the global 
financial powers?

*MB:* That’s a really good question to raise and I think this is why 
many of us have such ambivalent feelings.  Correa has done many, many 
good things, which is why I said he is the best president Ecuador has 
ever had.  This is particularly true in the area of economic policy.  
He’s been great.  The social movement-left that I work with applauds a 
lot of these things.  For instance, the way Correa has dealt with the 
issues of debt crisis and increased taxation on oil companies.  Perhaps, 
part of this is logical because Correa is an economist and he’s more 
capable of negotiating these issues than past presidents were.  This is 
true in terms of establishing autonomous and South looking economic 
policies.   So, on some issues Correa has been a very strong leader.  
There are questions that I’ve never gotten satisfactory answers to.  One 
of them is: despite Hugo Chavez’ urging, Correa was very slow to join 
ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas).  It was never clear to me 
why he delayed it for so long and why he did finally join ALBA when he 
did.  Some people guess that this was due to domestic and geopolitical 
considerations in terms of how best to position himself. Again, this is 
often a leftist critique of Correa.  The left wishes he would more often 
take principled stances rather than political opportune stands.  There 
is a very important critique to keep in mind of what some people call 
the ‘ultra-left’, which is what people associate me with, which is that 
we live in the real world and real life conditions need to be taken into 
account when making these type of decisions.  We can wish that Correa 
would always make the type of positive policy decisions that he has in 
these economic realms, but he’s constrained by broader macro 
conditions.  This has always been a problem for the left.  Salvador 
Allende in Chile said that we need to make haste slowly.  There’s this 
idea that if you move too quickly you get over thrown by the oligarchy 
and if you move to slowly your social movement base gets upset with you 
and over throws you.  Correa is a good politician and so far he’s done a 
remarkably good job negotiating between those political tensions.

*PG:*   How do you see Latin American integration (things like ALBA) and 
general movement away from subservience to the US affecting the region 
and its relationship to the US?

*MB:*  Many people say George W. Bush and the Iraq war was the best 
thing to ever happen to Latin America because it removed the US’ 
imperialist gaze and allowed a lot of these autonomous developments to 
emerge. Ecuador has been a significant player in terms of pushing 
forward some of these objectives.  As I’ve said there’s questions as to 
why Correa delayed joining ALBA, however in other ways Ecuador has been 
at the forefront with UNASUR, which isn’t an explicitly left leaning 
alliance, but which is building a South American alliance separate from 
the United States.  UNASUR is based in Quito right now.  With the 
September 30, 2010 police protest crisis in Ecuador one thing that was a 
really positive and maturing step of the whole political process was 
that the United States didn’t step in with a solution.  Instead regional 
groups like UNASUR took the lead and made really clear statements that 
extra-constitutional changes in government would not be acceptable 
here.  It’s a really positive development that these governments are 
able to solve their problems on their own.  This is not at all 
incidental that this maturation of international structures has happened 
under left wing governments rather than pro-US governments.

*PG:*  I wanted to ask you about something you often here about in the 
US mainstream media and even with groups like Committee to Protect 
Journalists, which is Correa’s attacks on media freedom.  How do you see 

*MB: * Personally, I think it’s a false issue.  I think it’s a 
conservative issue.  A lot of the social movements are more concerned 
with economic bread and butter and structural issues.  You have this 
case of this editorialist for /El Universo/ who is now sitting in Miami 
and claiming political repression.  But, having rich people go to Miami 
and whine about how they’ve been treated just doesn’t gain much sympathy 
from a social movement-left.  I think there’s a real difference between 
liberals and leftists.  Liberals being concerned about individual 
freedoms, private property, and capitalism.  Leftists are concerned 
about structural issues and how society is put together.   This does 
influence the social movement-left in terms of Correa’s growing 
authoritarianism and taking political space away from them.  This is 
particularly true if we look at something like community media.  But, 
the international press uses these allegations about media freedom as a 
battering ram against Ecuador’s left.  Last January there was this 
concerted campaign of the New York Times, and few other major papers in 
the US, which at almost the same time published editorials against 
Correa’s alleged crack down on press freedom.  It seems to have been 
just a right wing attack.

*PG:** *Why do you think Correa decided to shelter Julian Assange?

*MB:*  Correa gave asylum to Julian Assange in August of last year and 
in June of last year he pulled Ecuador out of the school of the 
Americas, which is now called WHINSEC.  When he did it he said: I 
thought we had done this a long time ago.  Coincidentally, these issues 
played very well with the social movement left.  This may be an example 
of the left successfully pushing Correa left and him doing something 
more so for principled reasons rather than broader geo-political 
reasons.  There’s little things like that the left should really cheer 
the Correa administration.

*PG:** *So, you don’t see it as direct antagonism toward the US?

*MB:*  I don’t know.  This goes back to the beginnings of Hugo Chavez 
administration in Venezuela where his bark was much worse than his 
bite.  He would say really antagonistic things against the US, but then 
never really do anything to follow through.  For example, cutting off 
oil supply to the US, though this has changed a little bit now.  The 
reason I frame it like that is because I don’t know what Correa would 
have to gain by intentionally antagonizing the US, when at the same time 
he claims to have such warm relations with Obama and Clinton.  This may 
be all political posturing, but this goes back to September 30.   If 
he’s relying on tacit US  and Ecuadorian military support, because those 
are the two that could most easily remove him from power, other than the 
social movement left, then I don’t see him  having a reason to directly 
antagonize those power players.  So, something like this strikes me as 
more of a principled stance.  There have also been some really strong 
leftists in the foreign ministry in Ecuador. It might be a result of 
leftist activists and the foreign ministry trying to push Correa on 
these types of issues.

*PG:** * Why is there this space in Latin America where through so much 
of the 20^th century even very mildly left leaning governments would be 
over thrown by a US backed coup?

*MB:*  It goes back to what I said before.  Ten years ago George W. Bush 
was distracted by the Iraq war and that opened the space.  Some people 
who watch international policy and foreign relations much more closely 
than I do complain about Barak Obama being more of the same and that his 
administration is not in favor of having this space.  So, its obviously 
not due to any gesture on the part of the Obama administration.  Taking 
a long-term view of history we know empires don’t last forever.  I might 
be wrong, but I’m just assuming that we’re beginning to see the decline 
of the US empire.  It’s no longer hegemonic.  During the Cold War some 
of its actions were held in check by the Soviet Union and non-aligned 
movements saw that as a positive thing because it created some space for 
the non-aligned movement.  But, even after the end of the cold war, 
where the US is supposed to be hegemonic we see that it is not hegemonic 
and that there are significant spaces here.  Either we over estimate the 
imperial reach of the US, or maybe that empire is coming to an end.  
 From my perspective its too early to be clear about what’s happening.  
But, this is really foundational for world history.  It’s really a 
watershed moment and these are dramatic shifts in politics.

*PG:* So, Correa is expected to win the upcoming election on February 
17.  How do you see his policies changing and do you think his focus 
will be?

*MB:*  I don’t know.  I don’t do a good job at forecasting the future.  
One quick observation that I think is worth keeping in mind is that 
everybody assumes that Correa will win the election.  So, maybe he will. 
A bigger concern is whether he is going to win control over the congress 
and if he doesn’t win control who is going to have that balance of 
seats.  If people to his left win a controlling majority they will push 
Correa to the left.  If conservatives win a majority in congress Correa 
will be forced to compromise with them and they will push his policies 
to the right.  There is this pattern in Ecuador of people splitting 
their tickets, specifically in conservative areas.  That means voting 
for Correa, the populist at the top of the ticket and voting for right 
wing parties farther down.  That’s what’s been happening over the last 
couple years.  I think that’s a real danger.  The presidency is just one 
position and he may have to negotiate power with other power brokers.  I 
think that is a real concern because if we’re going to have a revolution 
it needs to be thorough and through all sectors of society.  That seems 
to be where the limitations are.  I think that’s an issue of concern.

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