[News] ***SPAM*** Are We Not All in Search of Tomorrow

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https://www.thetricontinental.org/newsletterissue/5-ecuador-elections/ Are
We Not All in Search of Tomorrow: The Fifth Newsletter (2021)
Vijay Prashad - February 4, 2021
------------------------------

Français
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/fr/newsletterissue/newsletter-5-equateur-elections/>
हिन्दी
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/hi/newsletterissue/newsletter-5-ecuador-chunav/>

[image: Oswaldo Terreros (Ecuador), Mural para la Universidad Superior de
las Artes (‘Mural for the University of the Arts’), 2012.]

Oswaldo Terreros (Ecuador), *Mural para la Universidad Superior de las
Artes (‘Mural for the University of the Arts’)*, 2012.

Dear friends,

Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
<https://thetricontinental.org/>.

In 2019, 613 million Indians voted to appoint their representatives to the
Indian parliament (Lok Sabha). During the election campaign, the political
parties spent
<https://cmsindia.org/sites/default/files/2019-05/Poll-Expenditure-the-2019-elections-cms-report.pdf>
Rs. 60,000 crores (around US $8 billion), 45% of which was spent by the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the governing party; the BJP won 37% of the
vote, which translated into 303 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha. A year
later, a massive $14 billion was spent
<https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/10/cost-of-2020-election-14billion-update/>
on the US presidential and congressional elections, with the winning
Democrat Party dominating the spending. These are massive amounts of money,
whose grip on the democratic process is quite clear by now. Is it possible
to talk about ‘democracy’ without being candid about the erosion of the
democratic spirit by this avalanche of money?

Money floods the system, eats into the loyalties of politicians, corrupts
the institutions of civil society, and shapes the narratives of the media.
It matters that the dominant classes in our world own the main
communications outlets and that these outlets shape the way people decipher
the world around us. Although the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of
Human Rights affirms
<https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/> that ‘Everyone
has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’ (Article 19), the plain
fact is that the concentration of the media in the hands of a few corporate
entities circumscribes the freedom to ‘impart information and ideas through
any media’. For this reason, Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing Media
Ownership Monitor <https://www.mom-rsf.org/> that traces the consolidation
of the media held by corporate power, which in turn drives a political
agenda within existing systems of government.

[image: Paul Guiragossian (Lebanon), La Lutte de l’Existence (‘The Struggle
of Existence’), 1988]

Paul Guiragossian (Lebanon), *La Lutte de l’Existence (‘The Struggle of
Existence’)*, 1988

Aijaz Ahmad, Senior Fellow at Tricontinental: Institute for Social
Research, argues
<https://frontline.thehindu.com/cover-story/article27315369.ece> that
extreme right political projects find it possible to drive their agenda
through democratic institutions, since the political structures in these
countries – from the United States to India – have seen a considerable
erosion of their democratic content. As Ahmad explains, the extreme right
in countries such as the United States and India does not challenge the
constitutional, liberal democratic form, but garrottes formal institutions
by transforming society ‘in all domains of culture, religion, and
civilisation’.

In Latin America, the extreme right has used every weapon to delegitimise
its adversaries, including using perfectly good laws against corruption in
a malicious way to target leaders of the left. This is a strategy called ‘
lawfare
<https://www.pagina12.com.ar/92381-nueva-guerra-juridica-en-america-latina>’,
where the law is used – often without evidence – to oust
democratically-elected leaders of the left or to prevent them from running
for office. Lawfare was used to remove Honduran president José Manuel
Zelaya in 2009, Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012, and Brazilian
president Dilma Rousseff in 2016; these leaders were all victims of
judicial *coup d’états*. Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva was denied
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/lula-and-the-battle-for-democracy/> the
right to run for the presidency in 2018 by a lawsuit of no merit whatsoever
amidst predictions in all polls that he would win. Argentina’s former
president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faced a series of cases beginning
in 2016, all of which prevented her from running again in 2019 (she is now
the vice president, a testament to her popularity in the country).

[image: Emiliano di Cavalcanti (Brazil), Sonhos do carnaval (‘Dreams of
Carnaval’), 1955.]

Emiliano di Cavalcanti (Brazil), *Sonhos do carnaval (‘Dreams of Carnaval’)*,
1955.

In Ecuador, the oligarchy used the techniques of the *guerra jurídica*
(‘legal war’) to delegitimise the entire left, especially former president
Rafael Correa (2007-2017). Correa was accused of bribery – with the bizarre
notion of ‘psychic influence’ (*influjo psíquico*) at the root of the case
<https://issuu.com/la_hora/docs/17721-2019-00029g_pdf_boletas_sentencia_apelaci_n_>.
He was handed down an eight-year sentence which prevented him from running
for office in Ecuador.

Why was Correa anathema to both Ecuador’s dominant class and to the United
States? The Citizens’ Revolution that Correa led passed a progressive
constitution
<https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/sites/default/files/private/asambleanacional/filesasambleanacionalnameuid-29/constitucion-republica-inc-sent-cc.pdf>
in
2008, which put the principle of ‘good living’ (*buen vivir* in
Spanish and *sumak
kawsay* in Quechua) at its heart. Government investment to strengthen
social and economic rights came alongside a crackdown on corporate
(including multinational) corruption. Oil revenue was not parked in foreign
banks, but used to invest in education
<https://confirmado.net/2020/05/08/la-educacion-fue-la-bandera-en-la-decada-de-correa/>
, health care
<https://www.presidencia.gob.ec/presidente-la-salud-no-es-una-mercancia-es-un-derecho/>
, roads
<https://www.obraspublicas.gob.ec/mas-de-558-millones-de-dolares-en-obras-viales-ha-invertido-el-gobierno-nacional-en-loja/>,
and other basic infrastructure. From Ecuador’s population of 17 million,
nearly 2 million people were lifted out of poverty
<https://www.inclusion.gob.ec/presidente-correa-19-millones-de-personas-dejaron-de-ser-pobres-en-seis-anos/>
in
the Correa years.

Correa’s government was an aberration to the multinational firms – such as
the US-based oil company Chevron – and to the Ecuadorian oligarchy.
Chevron’s dangerous case
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/10/01/how-ecuadors-democracy-is-being-suffocated/>
for compensation against Ecuador, brought forward before Correa took
office, was nonetheless fiercely resisted by Correa’s government. The Dirty
Hand (*Mano Negra*) campaign put enormous international pressure against
Chevron, which worked closely
<https://amazonwatch.org/news/2011/0921-wikileaks-cables-expose-chevron-lobbying-of-ecuador-government-to-kill-environmental-case>
with
the US embassy in Quito and the US government to undermine Correa and his
campaign against the oil giant.

Legendary musician Roger Waters talks to me about Chevron’s mischief in
Ecuador

Not only did they want Correa out, but they wanted all the leftists –
called Correistas by shorthand – out as well. Lenín Moreno, who was once
close to Correa, ascended to the presidency in 2017, switched sides, became
the main instrument for fragmenting the Ecuadorian left, and delivered
Ecuador back to its elites and to the United States. Moreno’s government
gutted
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2021/01/23/who-can-save-ecuador-from-neoliberalism/>
the public sector by defunding education and health care, withdrawing
labour and housing rights, attempting to sell off Ecuador’s refinery, and
deregulating parts of the financial system. Collapsed oil prices that led
to cuts in oil subsidies, a hefty loan from the International Monetary Fund
at the cost of austerity measures, and mismanagement of the pandemic
battered Moreno’s legitimacy. A consequence of these policies has been
Ecuador’s appalling response to the pandemic, which includes accusations of
the deliberate
<https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/23/world/americas/ecuador-deaths-coronavirus.html>
undercounting
of as many as 20,000 COVID-19 deaths.

[image: Firoz Mahmud (Bangladesh), Ouponibeshik/Porouponibeshik
(‘Colonial/Postcolonial’), 2017.]

Firoz Mahmud (Bangladesh), *Ouponibeshik/Porouponibeshik
(‘Colonial/Postcolonial’)*, 2017.

To ingratiate himself to the United States, Moreno ejected
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/09/01/the-us-is-determined-to-make-julian-assange-pay-for-exposing-the-cruelty-of-its-war-on-iraq/>
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy, arrested
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2019/06/30/ola-bini-my-fight-for-justice-will-continue/>
computer programmer and privacy activist Ola Bini on a concocted case, and
launched a frontal attack against the Correistas. The political
organisation of the Correistas was broken up, its leaders arrested, and any
attempt to regroup for elections denied
<https://www.larepublica.ec/blog/2018/01/15/contencioso-electoral-reconoce-directiva-morenista-al-frente-de-alianza-pais/>.
Once such as example is the Social Compromise Force or *Fuerza Compromiso
Social* platform, which the Correistas used  to run
<https://bit.ly/346tQtK> for
local elections in 2019; this platform was then banned
<https://ww2.elmercurio.com.ec/2020/09/17/el-cne-elimina-a-fuerza-compromiso-social-de-rafael-correa-y-a-otros-tres-movimientos/>
in
2020. A February 2018 referendum was barrelled
<https://elestado.net/2020/06/23/referendum-2018-ecuador-consulta-corrupcion/>
through
the country, allowing the government to destroy the democratic structures
of the National Electoral Council (CNE), the Constitutional Court, the
Supreme Court, the Judiciary Council, the attorney general, the comptroller
general, and others. Democracy was hollowed out.

A month before the 7 February 2021 presidential election, it appeared
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2021/01/28/andres-arauzs-chances-look-bright-say-opinion-polls-ahead-of-ecuadorian-elections/>
clear that in a fair election the candidate of the left, Andrés Arauz
Galarza, would prevail. A range of pollsters suggested
<https://twitter.com/omarmaluk/status/1354969715735719938> that Arauz would
win in the first round with over the threshold of 40%. Arauz (age 35) is an
attractive candidate with not a whiff of corruption or incompetence around
him for his decade of service in the Central Bank and as a minister in the
last two turbulent years of Correa’s government. When Correa left office,
Arauz went to Mexico to pursue a PhD at the National Autonomous University
of Mexico (UNAM). The oligarchy has used every means to block his victory.

[image: Gulnara Kasmalieva and Murat Djumaliev (Kyrgyzstan), Shadows, 1999.]

Gulnara Kasmalieva and Murat Djumaliev (Kyrgyzstan), *Shadows*, 1999.

On 14 January, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)
provided
<https://www.dfc.gov/media/press-releases/dfc-and-ecuador-sign-framework-agreement-support-development-private-sector>
Ecuador with a loan of $2.8 billion to be used to pay off Ecuador’s debt to
China and to ensure that Ecuador pledge to break commercial ties with
China. Knowing that Arauz might win, the US and the oligarchy of Ecuador
decided to tie the Andean country to an arrangement that could suffocate
any progressive government. Formed in 2018, the DFC developed
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/11/04/the-us-is-doing-its-best-to-lock-out-china-from-latin-america-and-the-caribbean/>
a project called *América Crece* or ‘Growth in the Americas’, whose entire
policy framework aims to edge out Chinese business from the American
hemisphere. Quito has since signed up for Washington’s ‘Clean Network
<https://go.ind.media/e/546932/watch--v-1080407609075959/hspcjw/766803968?h=x5wwRz2CQYVfXdIwvteWRGm2ffm7ixxiQCuZ5oqDCi8>’,
a US State Department project to force countries to build
telecommunications networks without a Chinese telecom provider involved in
them. This particularly applies to the high-speed fifth generation (5G)
networks. Ecuador joined
<https://twitter.com/SecPompeo/status/1330461013079171072> the Clean
Network in November 2020, which opened the door for the DFC loan.

Correa drew
<https://asiatimes.com/2021/01/us-rescue-of-ecuador-from-chinese-debt-is-a-trap/>
in $5 billion from Chinese banks to enhance Ecuador’s infrastructure
(particularly for the construction of hydroelectric dams); Ecuador’s total
<https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/ecuador/external-debt> external debt
is $52 billion. Moreno and the United States have painted the Chinese funds
as a ‘debt trap’, although there is no evidence that the Chinese banks have
been anything but accommodating. Over the last six months of 2020, Chinese
banks have been willing to put loan payments on hold until 2022 (this
includes
<https://go.ind.media/e/546932/-deal-delay-474-191313080-html/hspcjp/766803968?h=x5wwRz2CQYVfXdIwvteWRGm2ffm7ixxiQCuZ5oqDCi8>
a
delay on the repayment of the $474 million loan to the Export-Import Bank
of China and the $417 million loan to the China Development Bank).
Ecuador’s Finance Ministry says that, for now, the plan is for repayment to
start in March 2022 and to end by 2029. Moreno took to Twitter
<https://go.ind.media/e/546932/nin-status-1306251628471898112/hspcjr/766803968?h=x5wwRz2CQYVfXdIwvteWRGm2ffm7ixxiQCuZ5oqDCi8>
to
announce these two delays. There were no aggressive measures taken by these
two banks nor from any other Chinese financial entity.

Essentially, the DFC loan attempts to sabotage an Arauz presidency. This
US-imposed conflict against China in Latin America is part of a broader
assault. On 30 January, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research held
a seminar alongside Instituto Simón Bolívar, ALBA Social Movimientos, and
the No Cold War platform to reflect on the Latin American battlefield of
this hybrid war.

The speakers included Alicia Castro (Argentina), Eduardo Regaldo Florido
(Cuba), João Pedro Stedile (Brazil), Ricardo Menéndez (Venezuela), Monica
Bruckmann (Peru/Brazil), Ambassador Li Baorong (China), and Fernando Haddad
(Brazil).

Despite the hollowing out of democracy, elections remain one front in the
political contest, and in that contest, the left fights to summon a
democratic spirit. Perhaps poetry is the best way to articulate the texture
of this conflict. Out of Ecuador’s rich tradition of emancipatory thinking
came the writer and communist Jorge Enrique Adoum. Here’s a part of his
powerful poem, *Fugaz retorno* (‘Fleeting Return’):

And we ran, like two runaways,
to the hard shore where stars
came apart. Fishermen told us
of successive victories in nearby provinces.
And our feet got wet with a spray of dawn,
full of roots that were ours and the world’s.

‘When is happiness?’, the poet asks. Tomorrow. Are we not all in search of
tomorrow?

Warmly,

Vijay


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