[News] Ecuador's Strike Across the Bow - Rafael Correa’s Push to Incense the Oligarchy

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 15 11:29:12 EDT 2015


June 15, 2015
*http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/06/15/rafael-correas-push-to-incense-the-oligarchy/*

*Ecuador's Strike Across the Bow*


  Rafael Correa’s Push to Incense the Oligarchy

by ROBERT FENTON

Ecuador, after Bolivia and Venezuela, is perhaps the most visible member 
of the left-leaning, anti-capitalist partnership known as ALBA (Latin 
American Bolivarian Alternative). The President, Rafael Correa, is an 
US-educated economist by training, but has spent all of his years in 
office bitterly opposing US-led incursions into the country and Latin 
America in general. Tremendously popular, the Citizen’s Revolution (/la 
revolucion ciudadana/) boasts numerous infrastructure projects, 
redistribution programs, modernization of social services, and so forth. 
Poverty reduction has been drastic, perhaps not as comparable as that of 
Venezuela, but definitely at a level of “progress” of which the US 
working classes should be jealous. For the US, and particularly for its 
oligarchical media, Correa is an international pariah, someone who 
constantly speaks against their neoimperialist designs in the region. 
The other thing Americans might know of Ecuador and its president is 
that the government represses the private press—of course we already 
know this is selective reporting utilized to portray Correa as some 
totalitarian dictator, which is patently unfounded. The right-wing 
dominated press, particularly the newspapers, make FOX News look like 
school children, except in the level of absurdities that can be conjured 
by their imagination, which deserves both admiration and scorn. There is 
certainly a level of artistic genius involved in fabricating the 
outrageous constructs that pass as news in Ecuador, perhaps a product of 
the baroque aesthetic traditions still prevalent in Latin American cultures.

Over the past few months, perhaps, the American audience came to know 
Correa through the funny but ignorant portrayal by HBO’s John Oliver. 
Correa, who regularly receives death threats from the ardent opposition 
(not to mention a suspicious police-led protest that had “coup attempt” 
written all over it), has decided not to let anonymous bullying on 
social media outlets to persist, and has devised a means by which to 
expose the people who regularly use social media to spout hatred and 
murder without any consequences whatsoever. The US has no use for such 
actions, they can spy on you wherever you may be. Yet this case turned 
out to be blip rather than a ping, because the oppositional 
right-wing—the most organized among them—are certainly smart enough not 
to post death threats on Twitter, even if in “polite” conversation with 
“/panas/,” sipping endless glasses of 12 year scotch diluted with 
mineral water, they certainly fantasize about the idea of disposing of 
their president. The history of 20^th century Ecuador provides numerous 
examples of how deadly the right-wing can be, how uncompromising their 
tactics and strategies are, which certainly have to have made an impact 
on Rafael Correa’s own actions and approaches.

But what began as a political “revolution,” in the sense of opening and 
deepening the political process to the millions of people who live on 
the fringes of Ecuadorian society (those in the /invasiones/, the 
informal working classes, the Afro-ecuadorian population, and the highly 
visible and highly exploitable indigenous population), has recently 
taken a more revolutionary tenor. Currently under debate is the Law to 
Redistribute the Wealth. Its most controversial element, at least from 
the perspective of the ruling classes, is an inheritance tax that seeks 
to break up intergenerational wealth transfers, by which the elite tend 
to maintain their power all over Latin America. This law has provoked a 
steady stream of misinformation, but also of outrage and protests, even 
from people who will not be affected by it. The law essentially applies 
a progressive tax to inheritances above $35,400 (a 2.5% tax), with the 
president reiterating that only 3 out of 100,000 Ecuadorians can be 
expected to receive inheritances of $50,000 or more. The highest rate, 
for sums above $849,600, would be 47.5% for children and 77.5% for 
others who benefit from said inheritance. Accompanying such “madness” 
would also be tax deductions for people leaving inheritances for 
employees (shares of the company, for example). The point, obviously, is 
to break apart the large concentrations of wealth that get passed on 
from generation to generation, or at least to redistribute some of these 
excesses—certainly nothing any Western Social Democracy or Welfare state 
hasn’t tried to do. The other stated goal, however, is to create more 
social enterprises, collectives and cooperatives. In this way, the 
Correa government is stepping forward, albeit cautiously and with 
trepidation, into more “revolutionary” territory. We may be seeing a 
Keynesian social democratic experiment start taking on more decidedly 
socialist overtones. Anyone who visits this country would, at present, 
have a hard time pointing out “socialist” interjections, and the 
“public” culture required for a revolution in social relations seems to 
be a long way off. However, sometimes it is moments and issues that can 
galvanize the masses, and they must certainly begin to ponder such 
movement because the opposition will not waste its opportunities.

And so it is, in Ecuador, that the right-wing seems to have struck gold 
with this campaign to demonize the inheritance tax, much like they have 
in the US (the so-called “death tax”). The Middle Classes, which 
certainly won’t have much to leave as far as inheritances go, are up in 
arms about supposed government overreach. The slogans of “I work for my 
children” have caught on with many in this sector. Memes abound, 
personalizing the tax as a direct transference of wealth from the person 
to the President, trending on Facebook and Twitter. Of course they are 
absurd, but absurdity can be an effective political mechanism in 
shifting public opinion, as any US American of left-leanings knows. But 
even more salacious than the absurdities of the right is the truth of 
the working classes. Their numbers and their unleashed political 
presence have certainly kept the counterrevolution in check, though not 
permanently. Yet, in this case, they may need another strategy. Perhaps 
the poor and working classes of Ecuador should revisit the theory of 
exploitation proffered by Marx long ago, and reconfigure the right’s 
phrase into their own rallying cry: YO TRABAJO PARA TUS HIJOS! (I WORK 
FOR YOUR KIDS!). Time will tell how this development shakes out, but for 
now the class war deepens and intensifies in Ecuador, as it does in all 
of the ALBA affiliated countries (and Europe and the USA along other 
lines). Geopolitical shifts, particularly the rise of China and the 
decline of US hegemony, will probably tip the scales to one side or the 
other in the long run, but battles can be won or lost, and right now the 
battle boils beneath the surface, at any point it could erupt into the 
streets.

(It should be noted that the government is aware of this possibility, as 
anti-political violence campaigns are underway in all major news outlets.)

/*Robert Fenton* is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at George Mason 
University. He currently lives in Ecuador conducting research on urban 
issues and transportation./

-- 
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