[News] How the US gov't cultivated environmental and Indigenous groups to defeat Ecuador's leftist Correísta movement

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 5 11:37:41 EDT 2021


  How the US gov't cultivated environmental and Indigenous groups to
  defeat Ecuador's leftist Correísta movement

Ben Norton·May 4, 2021

        When socialist Rafael Correa became Ecuador’s president, CIA
        cutouts poured money into environmental and Indigenous groups,
        while the US embassy cultivated opportunistic leaders to
        undermine his constituency. These forces helped secure victory
        for right-wing banker Guillermo Lasso in 2021.


The people of Ecuador were hit by a surprise in the April 2021 
presidential election: Hard-right banker Guillermo Lasso, one of the 
richest and most corrupt oligarchs in the country, who had 
unsuccessfully run in two previous races, scored a narrow victory over 
leftist Andrés Arauz.

Arauz, a progressive young economist, had served as a minister in the 
government of Ecuador’s socialist President Rafael Correa 
who had declared a “Citizens’ Revolution” that transformed the country 
during his term from 2007 to 2017.

What was not conveyed in most media reports on Lasso’s surprising 

victory, however, was that Lasso only won thanks to the support he 
received, both directly and indirectly, from environmental and 
Indigenous groups that have been co-opted over that last 15 years by the 
US government and its soft-power networks.

The leaders of these opportunistic, pseudo-left organizations have 
benefited from millions of dollars in funding from CIA cutouts like the 
US Agency for International Development and National Endowment for 
Democracy. Together, they formed an alliance of convenience with Lasso 
against the Correísta movement.

Some even endorsed the multimillionaire banker openly, overlooking his 
well-documented corruption, including offshore bank accounts 
and tens of millions of dollars of real estate in Florida 
Others, including right-leaning leaders in Ecuador’s powerful Indigenous 
confederation, CONAIE, called on their followers to vote null in the 
April 11 presidential election rather than support the leftist Arauz.

CONAIE’s decision to call for a null vote was perhaps the most important 
factor in making Lasso Ecuador’s next president. The 2021 election saw a 
massive increase in politically motivated null votes, with 1.1 million 
more than in the previous election in 2017. The total of 1.76 million 
null votes greatly outnumbered the 420,000 votes that Arauz lost by.

The role that conservative leaders of CONAIE, the confederation’s 

political arm Pachakutik, and “green” NGOs played in getting a 
notoriously corrupt neoliberal banker elected in Ecuador was hardly a 
secret. In fact, Pachakutik’s presidential candidate, Yaku Pérez 
boasted of defeating Arauz immediately after the election, triumphantly 
tweeting in all caps, “Pachakutik and the null vote bury Correísmo 

The Grayzone documented how Yaku Pérez ran a right-wing, pro-US campaign 
while marketing himself as the face of the “new left” in Ecuador, 
adopting a US Democratic Party-style marketing scheme that combined 
neoliberal economic policies and support for imperialism with liberal 
environmentalism and identity politics.

Pérez revealed after the first round of the election that he had the 

support of the US embassy. 
<https://twitter.com/RutaKritica/status/1358971944427749377> He also has 
a history of publicly boasting of friendly meetings with Washington’s 
ambassador to Ecuador, Michael J. Fitzpatrick.

It is unsurprising then, that among the CONAIE and Pachakutik supporters 
who did not vote null, the vast majority ended up backing Lasso.

A review of the official results published by Ecuador’s National 
Electoral Council (CNE) shows that roughly half of people who had voted 
for Pérez in the first round of the presidential election in February 
ended up voting null in the second round, whereas approximately 40 
percent of Pérez’s supporters voted for Lasso.

Only around 7 percent of Pérez supporters ended up voting for Arauz, 

according to a rough estimate provided to The Grayzone by an electoral 

Yet in much of the punditry about the surprising loss suffered by Arauz, 
who had been leading in nearly all polls before the election, the names 
Yaku Pérez and Pachakutik are not even mentioned. The omission is 
particularly prevalent among English-speaking analysts.

Eduardo Enríquez Arévalo 
<https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=-DNcHfEAAAAJ&hl=es>, an 
academic expert on Ecuadorian politics at the Simon Bolivar Andean 
University, explained in an interview with The Grayzone, “In general one 
can say that Pachakutik has had a process of shifting to the right, or 
at least becoming increasingly close to the right wing by the 2010s.”

Pachakutik and CONAIE are also deeply embedded in the non-profit 
industrial complex. Leaders and prominent activists from the groups work 
in well-funded NGOs, some of which are bankrolled by foreign governments.

Pachakutik’s rightward drift, then, is partially an organic phenomenon, 
but it has also been heavily incentivized by the huge sums of money 
flowing into Ecuador from the United States and Western European 
governments and foundations.

The grim reality is that Pérez and Pachakutik are at the heart of a 
15-year-long US destabilization project that is little known outside of 

Declassified government documents show how, on the eve of Correa’s 
historic election 2006, Washington began reaching out to Indigenous and 
environmental leaders and poured millions of dollars into cultivating 
these groups, as part of a campaign to divide the country’s left.

State Department cables published by WikiLeaks 
<https://search.wikileaks.org/?q=pachakutik> clearly demonstrate that 
the US embassy was recruiting opportunistic leaders of CONAIE and 
Pachakutik to undermine Correa and his leftist movement.

The documents show that figures from CONAIE and Pachakutik were acting 
as informants for the embassy, regularly providing intelligence to a US 
political officer. Some right-leaning Indigenous leaders even themselves 
contacted the US ambassador and held friendly meetings reassuring 
Washington of their support.

WikiLeaks US embassy Ecuador Correa left
A confidential 2009 US embassy cable notes how Ecuador’s socialist 
President Correa faced attacks from the “left”

CIA fronts like the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and 
the National Endowment for Democracy also launched programs to build and 
finance an anti-Correísta opposition. These multimillion-dollar 
initiatives focused especially on Ecuador’s environmental and Indigenous 

USAID worked closely with the CIA during Washington’s terrorist war on 
the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua 
in the 1980s, funneling money into far-right Contra death squads. The 
agency has also been integral in financing the US government’s ongoing 
coup attempt in Venezuela, forking over hundreds of millions of dollars 
to the unelected parallel regime of Juan Guaidó 

A review of USAID contracts reveals that a company called Chemonics was 
the agency’s main “private” partner in Ecuador. One of the largest 
for-profit recipients of US foreign aid 
with $2.5 billion in USAID funding from 2018 to 2019 alone, Chemonics is 
closely linked to intelligence agencies, and functions as a private 
intelligence agency. Its wealthy founder said he created the firm to 
“have my own CIA 

Chemonics has been involved in a series of scandalous US regime-change 
operations targeting leftist governments in Latin America, aimed at 
destabilizing the socialist Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo 
Chávez of Venezuela.

Chemonics played a similar role in the US dirty war on Syria. The 
Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal has documented how USAID used Chemonics 
to funnel tens of millions of dollars to the White Helmets 
a regime-change lobby group that collaborated closely with 
Salafi-jihadist extremist militants, including al-Qaeda, as part of a 
Western intelligence operation aimed at overthrowing the government in 

As USAID’s top partner in Ecuador, Chemonics was given an $11 million 
contract in the year 2013 alone, greatly surpassing any other 
contractor, in order to fund “Environmental Protection” initiatives.

When regime-change operations from USAID’s “Office of Transition 
Initiatives” were exposed in Venezuela and Bolivia, the Correa 
government froze relations with USAID in December 2013, and then 
expelled the agency in 2014.

But USAID renewed its activities at an all-time high in Ecuador in 2018, 
when Correa’s successor Lenín Moreno took a hard-right turn 
and allied with Washington.

USAID Ecuador 2013 climate change environment
In 2013, USAID poured millions into environmental groups to counter 
Correa’s infrastructure projects

These Washington-backed environmentalist groups organized large, and 
often violent, campaigns to oppose Correa’s ambitious infrastructure 
projects, which sought to develop Ecuador’s impoverished and rural 
regions and better integrate the country.

In the name of “anti-extractivism” – a buzzword that has become popular 
among the same astroturfed pseudo-left networks in North America 
– these US government-funded NGOs in Ecuador also tried to block the 
socialist-oriented Correa administration from using the country’s 

plentiful oil and mineral resources to fund universal education, 
healthcare, and social programs aimed at poverty reduction.

Skeptical local media outlets 
noted at the time that the “environmental protection” projects run by 
USAID and Chemonics in Ecuador happened to be in the areas with the most 
natural resources, leading peasants to raise concerns about ulterior 
motives and undemocratic US meddling.

The fact that many of Correa’s infrastructure projects involved 
contracts with Chinese state-owned companies further motivated 
Washington to undermine them.

Correa worked closely with China during his time in office, becoming one 
of Beijing’s most important allies in Latin America. The anti-Correísta 
opposition on the other hand is staunchly pro-US, and has vowed to 
distance Ecuador from Beijing, hyperbolically claiming, “the Correísta 
discourse of an independent country ends in the doorway of the Chinese 

Much of the pseudo-left environmental and Indigenous opposition to 
Correísmo has harshly condemned China while cozying up to Washington. 
Pachakutik candidate Yaku Pérez made his name opposing China’s 
development projects in Ecuador, and was avidly promoted by a British 
dedicated to monitoring Beijing’s activities in Latin America. At 
same time, Pérez insisted he “will not think twice” to sign a free trade 
agreement with the United States 

Supplementing the tens of millions of dollars that USAID spent in 
Ecuador to help build this pseudo-left opposition were grants from the 
National Endowment Democracy, another CIA front 

NED Ecuador womens rights 2020
2020 NED contracts for women’s rights groups in Ecuador

The NED bankrolled major anti-Correísta politicians 
while focusing especially on environmental, Indigenous, and women’s 
rights groups, along with opposition media outlets.

A prime example of a US-backed, astroturfed Indigenous organization in 
Ecuador is the Pachamama Foundation. With the help of annual grants from 
the NED going back years, the foundation relentlessly attacked 
<https://www.facebook.com/page/303405686423463/search/?q=correa> Correa 

<https://twitter.com/FPachamama_Ec/status/978341682121977856>, trashing 
him as an authoritarian “extractivist,” while constantly promoting 
Yaku Pérez <https://twitter.com/FPachamama_Ec/status/994639616367054848> 
as a noble defender 
of the environment.

NED Ecuador Indigenous journalism
2020 NED contracts for Indigenous and environmental groups in Ecuador, 
like the Pachamama Foundation

Given its role as a US government-funded opposition group aimed at 
destabilizing his elected administration, Correa closed the Pachamama 
Foundation in 2013. But President Lenín Moreno re-opened the group 
in 2017, the year he openly betrayed his former ally and began to 
aggressively repress Correa’s leftist movement.

Fundacion Pachamama Yaku Perez Ecuador NED
The NED-funded Pachamama Foundation promoting Yaku Pérez

The National Democratic Institute (NDI), which is funded by the NED and 
loosely linked to the US Democratic Party, was also an active supporter 
of the anti-Correísta opposition. It had its own website specifically 
focused on Ecuador 
which boasted of the US government-backed institute’s activities in the 
country (this webpage was later removed).

Leaders of the Indigenous Pachakutik party were directly trained by the 
alongside other right-wing groups from Latin America, including 
Venezuela’s conservative Primero Justicia party and Mexico’s National 
Action Party (PAN).

The NDI also published lengthy how-to manuals 
for the Ecuadorian opposition, which helped them lobby against Correa’s 
reforms and sought to replicate the US political system in their country.

US NED NDI Pachakutik Ecuador coup Correa
A 2007 document showing how the US government’s National Democratic 
Institute (NDI) trained the Ecuadorian opposition group Pachakutik

Washington’s strategy of recruiting Indigenous leaders to oppose 
Correísmo echoes an operation the CIA ran in Nicaragua in the 1980s, 
which the spy agency cultivated disgruntled leaders of the Native 
Miskito community 
in order to destabilize the revolutionary Sandinista government.

Similarly, the far-right government of Brazilian President Jair 
Bolsonaro won support from Indigenous communities living on the border 
with Venezuela and used them to help launch attacks on Venezuelan 
In Mexico, meanwhile, the US government has funded environmental and 
Indigenous NGOs that oppose progressive President AMLO’s infrastructure 
programs, such as the Maya Train, which aim to develop the country’s 
impoverished southern region.

This is not to say that the left-wing governments of Ecuador, Nicaragua, 
Venezuela, and Mexico have had perfect relations with Indigenous 
peoples, or that these communities do not sometimes have justifiable 
grievances. But Washington and its right-wing allies, even open racists 
like Bolsonaro, have shown a willingness to exploit and mislead 
Indigenous communities to advance their geopolitical interests.

When Washington embarked on its strategy to use Indigenous people as a 
wedge against Correa, it was in fact actively working against the rights 
of Native peoples internationally. A declassified State Department cable 
published by WikiLeaks shows that the US ambassador in Ecuador condemned 
and lobbied against the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights 
Indigenous Peoples 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06QUITO1386_a.html>, arguing it was 
“fundamentally flawed.” (The Correa administration, for its part, 
supported the UN declaration.)

WikiLeaks Ecuador US UN Declaration Rights Indigenous
A 2006 State Department cable in which the US government condemns the UN 
Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples as “fundamentally flawed.”

For the imperial US bureaucrats assigned to South America, and dedicated 
to pushing back its leftist “Pink Tide,” weaponizing minority identities 
against popular movements became practically second nature.

The same tactics were honed back at home. The US Democratic Party and 
neoliberal leaders like Hillary Clinton have mastered the art of using 
unsubstantiated allegations of racism and sexism to undermine 
social-democratic figures like Bernie Sanders, while the Republican 
Party has leveraged corporate money 
<https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/minister-minstrelsy/> to 
cultivate a small handful of Black and Latino voices, promoting them to 
disrupt civil rights coalitions and advance regressive policies. (In a 
particularly glaring example of the tactic, Black Republican Supreme 
Court Justice Clarence Thomas 
was mentored by Jay Parker, a former registered lobbyist for the 
Transkei bantustan of apartheid South Africa 

The CIA itself has openly adopted this strategy, promoting 
“intersectional” feminism 
<https://twitter.com/aishaismad/status/1388963034274701316> and liberal 
anti-racist and LGBTQ rhetoric in its recruitment ads.

It is an age-old imperial tactic: divide and conquer. And the United 
States has perfected this strategy in Latin America – one of the most 
impoverished regions of the world, where the many millions of dollars 
that Washington throws around to advance its interests go a long way.

In April 2021, the US government’s 15-year program finally saw its first 
major success with the election of Guillermo Lasso, a member of 
far-right Catholic sect Opus Dei 
whose neoliberal policies represent the legacy of the CIA-backed Chicago 
Boys who wreaked havoc on Chile’s economy under the iron-fisted rule of 
General Augosto Pinochet.

A look at how Ecuador’s anti-Correísta opposition successfully divided 
the left, with US backing, is very instructive, because these tactics 
have been refined and exported in Washington’s operations throughout 
Latin America and across the globe.

      How US-backed banker Guillermo Lasso won the 2021 election

Much of the analysis of Andrés Arauz’s surprise electoral loss has 
focused on the fact that the media was uniformly against him, and 
constantly spread lies about Correísmo; or that the multimillionaire 

banker Guillermo Lasso had an enormous campaign war chest that 
overpowered his opponent.

Both points are correct, and these factors were important; but, alone, 
they are not sufficient to explain the outcome. Over the course of 
multiple successful campaigns for the presidency, Rafael Correa had 
faced the same obstacles.

In fact, some of the fake news stories used to smear Arauz were just 
slightly modified versions of attacks on Correa. Right-wing media 
outlets, for example, simply replaced the name of the Colombian 
guerrilla group FARC with the name of another, ELN, to generate a phony 
scandal based on the lie that it had supposedly funded the Ecuadorian 
leftist’s campaign 
But Correa always had a substantial enough support base to overcome the 

Then there is the fact that Ecuador’s current president, Lenín Moreno 
had been Correa’s vice president, and had originally claimed fidelity to 
the Citizens’ Revolution during the 2017 electoral campaign, before 
later doing a political 180. Moreno allied with the right-wing oligarchy 
and Lasso, humiliatingly subjugating his country to the United States, 
and withdrew from regional institutions like the ALBA economic alliance 
and UNASUR political union, while implementing unpopular neoliberal 
economic reforms and overseeing large-scale corruption 

The past associations that the deeply unpopular President Moreno enjoyed 
with Correa did repel some voters from Arauz. But this association 
should not be overstated, because for his entire term, Moreno had openly 
persecuted Correa and his movement 
exiling and imprisoning leftist politicians and activists who supported 
the Citizens’ Revolution, and clearly throwing his weight behind Lasso 
and other conservative forces.

By the end of Moreno’s term, his alliance with Lasso was so clear 
the Correístas were campaigning on the slogan “Lasso is Moreno.”

Some progressive Ecuadorian activists who spoke with The Grayzone also 
privately conceded that Arauz, a young, highly educated, and soft-spoken 
technocrat who ran a relatively moderate, center-left campaign, was seen 
as a relatively weak candidate. In contrast, Correa was a firebrand 
populist who had played on popular anger against the country’s parasitic 
oligarchy and was willing to challenge the US empire head on.

All of these variables contributed to Arauz’s loss. But the most 
important factor came in the form of a call for “ideological” null 
voting, dividing the left and giving Lasso just enough electoral space 
to swing ahead.

According to official results <https://elecciones2021.cne.gob.ec/> from 
the Ecuadorian government’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Arauz got 
4,236,515 votes compared to Lasso’s 4,656,426 — a difference of just 
419,911 votes.

CNE results Ecuador election 2021 null votes
The official CNE results from Ecuador’s April 2021 presidential 
election, showing 1,761,433 null votes

But there was a very significant third group that ended up swinging the 
election for Lasso: null voters. According to the official CNE results, 
there were 1,761,433 null votes, making up a staggering 16.3% of total 

This was a whopping 10% increase in null votes in comparison with the 
previous election. Official CNE statistics from previous Ecuador 
show much smaller levels of null voting.

In Ecuador’s 2009 election, only 496,687 null votes were cast, 
comprising just 6.3% of the total. In 2013, there were 684,027 null 
votes, or 7.2% of the total. And in 2017 there were 670,731 null votes, 
6.3% of the total.

Voting in Ecuador is legally mandatory, and participation in 2021 held 
at the median level: 83% participation in 2021, compared to the same as 
in 2017 and 82% in 2013.

There are reasons to doubt the accuracy of the CNE’s results, given the 
council’s clear politicization under the corrupt government of Moreno, 
which declared all-out war on the Correísta movement and stacked the 

body exclusively with opposition figures 
from Pachakutik and Lasso’s party CREO.

The left-wing Union for Hope (UNES) party of Arauz said it detected 
irregularities in 5,000 actas 
or vote tallies, a significant problem given that the average acta in 
Ecuador includes roughly 270 votes. However, several technical experts 
told The Grayzone that, although there indeed appeared to have been 
irregularities, they were not substantial enough to change the result of 
the election.

The most salient difference in 2021 was simply the gigantic increase in 
null votes. And what accounted for this massive increase? Ecuador’s 
Indigenous confederation CONAIE, its political arm Pachakutik, and their 
presidential candidate Yaku Pérez had called on their constituents to 
vote null.

CNE Ecuador elections null votes
Official CNE results from previous Ecuador elections, showing much 
smaller levels of null votes

      The right-wing shift of Ecuador’s US-backed Indigenous party

CONAIE does not represent all Indigenous communities in Ecuador, 
although it is the largest and most influential Native organization. The 
country’s Indigenous leaders are divided, and Native politicians, 
inside and outside CONAIE, can be found across the political spectrum.

Some Indigenous leaders, such as Citizens’ Revolution National Assembly 
candidate Ricardo Ulcuango 
a former vice president of CONAIE, are avid supporters of the Correísta 
movement. But numerous prominent politicians from CONAIE and its 
political arm Pachakutik have a history of forming opportunistic 
alliances with Ecuador’s conservative elites, and with the United 

States, especially when Correa was in power.

In 2017, Pachakutik’s Yaku Pérez openly endorsed Guillermo Lasso 
for the presidential election. Just days before the vote in February 
2021, Lasso returned the favor, stating that, if Pérez won in the first 
round, the banker would endorse him 

That same year, a small Ecuadorian environmentalist organization called 
Yasunidos met with Lasso and signed an agreement in support of the 
banker. Yasunidos, whose protests against Correa were strongly promoted 
by the Western press 
then went on to strongly advocate for Pérez in the 2021 election.

Pérez was by no means the only rightist Indigenous leader to support 

Lasso. In the 2017 election, Fanny Campos, a former coordinator of the 
Pachakutik party, not only backed Lasso but even joined his campaign 

Pachakutik politician Salvador Quishpe also publicly endorsed the 
wealthy banker. And he revealed in 2016 that the Indigenous party was 
discussing potentially running Pachakutik leader Lourdes Tibán as 
Lasso’s vice-presidential candidate 

In 2021, Pérez, Pachakutik, and CONAIE decided to indirectly help Lasso 
by calling on their followers to null vote in protest of Correísmo. This 
decision, which led to Arauz’s defeat, also created conflicts within the 
Indigenous confederation.

CONAIE’s then-president, Jaime Vargas – who represented a 
faction that had led huge protests against Moreno’s neoliberal 
IMF-mandated economic reforms 
in 2019 – broke with his own organization and endorsed Arauz for 
president in April.

Days after his endorsement, Pachakutik expelled Vargas for daring to 
support a Correísta candidate. Next, CONAIE condemned him 
announced it would sanction Vargas, and vacated his seat 
as the confederation’s president. Vargas responded by criticizing 

for acting against the interests of Ecuador’s Indigenous communities, 
accusing it of collaborating with the right wing.

Meanwhile Pérez’s running mate, Virna Cedeño, the official 
vice-presidential candidate of Pachakutik, publicly endorsed Lasso 
Echoing conservative rhetoric, she claimed the banker could help save 
Ecuador from the clutches of the “failed and deceptive Socialism of the 
21st Century,” a reference to the leftist economic model created by Hugo 
Chávez in Venezuela and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. (To save face, 
Pachakutik decided to expel Cedeño as well.)

The Grayzone documented how Yaku Pérez personally advanced a raft of 

right-wing and imperialist policies 
while deceptively claiming fidelity to the left. He supported the 
violent US-backed coup in Bolivia in 2019, which overthrew the country’s 
first and only ever Indigenous president, Evo Morales, as well as the 
soft coup against Brazil’s Workers’ Party government in 2016. Pérez also 
backed right-wing putsch attempts in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Pérez’s support for coups and alignment with US foreign-policy interests 
in Latin America led Rafael Correa and other Correísta leaders to brand 
him “Yankee Pérez 

During his presidential campaign, Pérez demonized his country’s 
impoverished masses, opposing a proposal by Andrés Arauz to give $1000 
checks to 1 million working-class Ecuadorian families by claiming they 
would spend it on beer in one day 
At the same time, Pérez said he would happily sign a free-trade 
agreement with the United States, telling a journalist, “I will not 
think twice.”

While Pérez ran on clearly right-wing policies, his campaign weaponized 
themes of identity, environmentalism, and gender and sexuality to attack 
the leftist Correísta movement (and to smear The Grayzone’s reporting) 

Pérez’s candidacy was heavily amplified by Western corporate 
outlets and US right-wing lobby groups like the Americas Society / 
Council of the Americas (AS/COA), which is funded by Western 
corporations, including a who’s who of the extraction industry.

Pérez quickly became a favorite 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ctrc8JRAPA> on CNN en Español 
where he spread baseless accusations of “fraud 
after narrowly losing first round of the presidential election. And in a 
friendly interview on CNN following Lasso’s April 11 victory, Pérez 
absurdly claimed that socialist former President Correa and his leftist 
movement represent “the new right 

Eduardo Enríquez Arévalo, an Ecuadorian sociologist, spoke with 
Grayzone about the shifting political orientation of CONAIE and Pachakutik.

“Pachakutik was born as an electoral instrument of CONAIE in the 
mid-’90s, but in the 2010s it became increasingly autonomous of CONAIE, 
which is visible in CONAIE’s criticism of the closeness that Pachakutik 
has had to Lasso and the right wing in recent years,” Enríquez explained.

In the 2010s, as Correa solidified a massive support base in Ecuador and 
expanded mining to fund popular social programs, Pachakutik began to 
openly ally with the right. In the 2014 mayoral election for the capital 
city Quito, Pachakutik’s candidate Milton Castillo openly endorsed 
conservative Mauricio Rodas 
calling on Indigenous supporters to vote for the right wing in order to 
defeat the Correísta candidate, Augusto Barrera.

Thanks in part to the Pachakutik candidate’s endorsement, the rightist 
Rodas won the election and began to use Quito’s local government to 
undercut President Correa. CONAIE leadership responded by publicly 
criticizing Castillo.

“That right-wing shift can be understood possibly as a clarification of 
the ideological differences of the different classes within Indigenous 
communities in Ecuador,” Enríquez said, “but also as 
a generational 
conflict between younger leaders like Leonidas Iza and Jaime Vargas, who 
maintain a more left-wing perspective, or are at least more radical in 
their forms of struggle, when compared to the older leaders who are 
closer to the political elites of the country, such as Assembly member 
Salvador Quishpe and Lourdes Tibán, who show a clear willingness to 
collaborate with the right wing.”

“In 2019 Pachakutik not only found itself supporting the right-wing 
government of Moreno but also taking a turn toward social conservatism, 
when it opposed the decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape, when 
even the majority of the legislative bloc of the Citizens’ Revolution 
supported that decriminalization,” the scholar noted.

CONAIE again censured Pachakutik 
its own political arm, for this vote against decriminalizing abortion in 
cases of rape.

In October 2019, the Moreno government tried to ram through a series of 
unpopular neoliberal economic reforms demanded by the International 
Monetary Fund. The left-wing faction of CONAIE helped organize protests 
against the proposed austerity measures.

After 10 days of demonstrations, CONAIE met with Moreno 
and came to an agreement to end the protests. The confederation’s 

willingness to negotiate with the notoriously corrupt right-wing 
president drew sustained criticism from the Ecuadorian left, given 
CONAIE leadership had on occasions refused to negotiate with Correa when 
he was president.

The 2019 protests were led by Jaime Vargas, the former CONAIE president 
who was later expelled from Pachakutik for endorsing Arauz, as well as 
Leonidas Iza. Given his role in the popular rebellion, Iza later sought 
nomination to run in the 2021 presidential election as Pachakutik’s 
candidate, but the party rejected him in choosing the right-leaning Yaku 

Pérez was noticeably not one of the leaders of the anti-neoliberal 
protests. In fact, just a few weeks after the demonstrations ended, 
Pérez quickly reconciled with the Moreno regime 
holding a press conference with one of its ministers. It was a clear 
sign to Moreno that he was willing to play ball.

In the 2021 election, Pérez went on to run a hardline anti-Correísta 
campaign, spreading lies and smears against Correa and Arauz. Pérez 
incited against Venezuelan immigrants 
<https://twitter.com/Ecuador_On_Q/status/1362126157605466114>, accusing 
them of stirring up chaos in Ecuador, and even echoed the thoroughly 
debunked right-wing propaganda that falsely accused Arauz of being 
funded by Colombian socialist guerrillas in the ELN.

Iza, from CONAIE’s left-wing faction, was so disturbed by Pérez’s 
reactionary campaign that he publicly warned that the Pachakutik 
candidate was collaborating with the right wing, revealing that members 
of Lasso’s conservative CREO party were in Pérez’s inner circle.

Pérez never came close to victory; he managed to win only 19% of the 

vote in the first round of the presidential election. When it was clear 
that he had lost, Pérez desperately called on Ecuador’s military to 
intervene in the election 
and for the Moreno administration to nullify the results of the first 
round and prosecute Arauz for supposedly taking ELN money.

While he ultimately lost the election, Pérez managed to fulfill his 
second goal, accomplishing what many right-leaning Pachakutik and CONAIE 
leaders – and their allies in Washington – had unsuccessfully tried to 
do in past elections: confuse progressive-minded Ecuadorians and divide 
the left-wing vote with his call for null voting, thereby handing a 
victory to Guillermo Lasso.

Pérez’s sabotage of a left-wing resurgence in Ecuador represented the 
culmination of a years-long operation conceived in Washington.

      US embassy cultivates anti-Correa Indigenous leaders

Classified US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks provide a 
host of examples of Washington cultivating opportunistic Indigenous and 
environmental leaders to weaken Ecuador’s left, going back to the 
eve of 
Rafael Correa’s first electoral victory.

When Wikileaks first revealed these documents, the US embassy’s 
collaboration with Native Ecuadorian leaders was reported on in Spanish 
by TeleSUR 
but it was almost entirely ignored in English-language media.

Numerous 2005 and 2006 US embassy 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06QUITO817_a.html> cables on 
Indigenous-led protests in Ecuador reveal that many leaders 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06QUITO1837_a.html> of CONAIE and 
Pachakutik were in regular contact 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06QUITO694_a.html> and participating 
in meetings with <https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/05QUITO1420_a.html> 
the embassy’s political officers, frequently providing Washington 
valuable information.

One of the cables identified US diplomat Vanessa Schulz 
<https://www.linkedin.com/in/vanessa-schulz-zenji-77b363136/> as a 
political officer (referred to in the documents with the abbreviation 
PolOff) who was communicating with Indigenous informants.

WikiLeaks Ecuador CONAIE Pachakutik US embassy
2006 State Department cables released by WikiLeaks show that 
opportunistic Indigenous leaders of Ecuador’s CONAIE and Pachakutik were 
in regular contact with a US embassy political officer (PolOff)

At this time, Washington’s top priority was the passage of a free 
agreement with Ecuador and other countries across Latin America.

A 2005 US embassy cable 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/05QUITO586_a.html> noted, “Most 
indigenous groups remain skeptical of a Free Trade Agreement with the 
U.S. and critical of Plan Colombia, but open to dialogue with us.”

The document revealed that “CONAIE asked the USG [US government] to 
intervene with the [Ecuadorian] President to get CONAIE representatives 
back in these [Ecuadorian] government institutions.”

“CONAIE’s new leadership seemed open to dialogue with the 
Embassy, while 
maintaining their distance from certain USG priorities,” the cable said.

The US embassy identified “More Moderate” Indigenous leaders who were 
potentially interested in a free trade agreement, such as CONAIE Vice 
President Santiago De La Cruz, who it disclosed “appeared eager to 
engage in dialogue with us” and “said he believed the U.S. was ‘not all 

WikiLeaks Ecuador CONAIE US embassy
A 2005 embassy cable discusses support for the US within Ecuador’s 
Indigenous CONAIE leadership

In August 2006, just weeks before Correa’s historic election, an 
Indigenous leader from the confederation CONAIE invited the US 
ambassador to his city for a friendly meeting.

A US State Department cable reported positively on the reunion with Auki 
Tituaña, mayor of the city of Cotacachi. Using patronizing language, 
embassy referred to him as a “counterweight within the main national 
Indigenous organization to the CONAIE leadership’s increasingly leftist 
and globaphobic insulation 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06QUITO2225_a.html>,” adding that 
Tituaña had requested the meeting with the US ambassador to show 
“pragmatic openness to collaboration with diverse forces to promote his 
people’s development.”

“During the hour-long meeting, Tituaña clearly sought to set 
Ambassador at ease, evincing pragmatism,” the cable went on. “He did not 
criticize the USG [US government] and, at one point, told us privately 
that the major problem with an FTA [free trade agreement] in Ecuador was 
simply a lack of information.”

Tituaña made it clear to the US government that he opposed Correa. The 
embassy recounted, “Tituana told us he had ruled out an alliance for 
fear of Correa’s polemic and divisive style.”

The cable acknowledged that there were significant political splits 
within Ecuador’s Indigenous community. It praised Tituaña, stating that 
he “signaled rare political openness, citing his personal friendship 
with PSC Mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot,” referring to a powerful 
right-wing politician in Ecuador.

Tituaña’s closeness to the right became undeniable in 2012, when the 
Indigenous leader announced that he would run as Guillermo Lasso’s vice 
presidential candidate 
in the next year’s election. CONAIE responded by expelling him.

WikiLeaks US ambassador Ecuador CONAIE indigenous
A 2006 US embassy cable discusses how Ecuador’s indigenous 
CONAIE/Pachakutik leader Auki Tituaña wanted closer relations with 

When Correa took power in 2007, the US embassy cables show that the 
State Department was supporting not only his right-wing opponents, but 
also the so-called “left opposition,” and even had regular contacts 
inside Ecuador’s police 

Numerous cables reveal that a representative from the AFL-CIO’s 
Solidarity Center, Patricio Contreras 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08QUITO921_a.html>, was an “embassy 
contact <https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/05QUITO1403_a.html>” – a US 
government informant, providing constant information on Ecuador.

A 2009 cable reporting on Indigenous protests 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09QUITO849_a.html> against Correa’s 
government showed that the US embassy was still in regular communication 
with Native leaders, revealing that the national director of the 
Federation of Evangelical Indigenous People of Ecuador (FEINE) was 
giving information to Washington’s political officer.

Another 2009 US embassy cable 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09QUITO873_a.html> monitoring 
Indigenous opposition to Correa noted that the leftist president “called 
some of the leaders ‘rightists’ with ‘golden ponchos.'”

Reporting on CONAIE’s 2009 demonstrations against Correa, the US embassy 
wrote: “The indigenous protestors, apparently armed with shotguns 
spears, allegedly opened fire on police, injuring 40 police and killing 
one of their own, a Shuar teacher named Bosco Wisuma. The killing of 
Bosco Wisuma, although reportedly an incident of ‘friendly fire,’ 
galvanized CONAIE supporters.”

The 2009 death of this Indigenous supporter had been used by the 
international media 
to condemn Correa, smearing him as authoritarian and anti-Indigenous, 
but the internal documents prove that Washington was well aware that he 
was killed by his own community members in a violent protest.

Perhaps the clearest sign of the US embassy recognizing the power of 
pseudo-left opposition to Correa is a classified 2009 cable signed by 
the charge d’affaires, Andrew Chritton. Titled “Correa and Social 
Movements: Attacks from the Left? 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09QUITO951_a.html>“, the document 
noted: “President Rafael Correa now faces strong but fragmented 
opposition from leftist groups that were part of his political base. In 
the last few months, the GOE has confronted striking teachers, students, 
and indigenous groups.”

The cable recalled that Correa accused some of these ostensibly 
left-wing opposition groups of “‘doing the work of the rightists’ and 

“It is ironic that Correa, the self-proclaimed ’21st century socialist,’ 
is facing his most active opposition from the left of the political 
spectrum, all the while accusing them of falling prey to manipulation 
from the ‘rightists,'” the embassy cheerfully noted.

The cable acknowledged, “Rumors in the indigenous community suggest that 
corporate interests in Guayaquil, or the losers in the last presidential 
election, funded the most violent protests during the September 
indigenous strike.”

In a blunt admission, however, the US embassy’s charge d’affaires 
conceded that “many of these organizations do not have much support from 
the general population.”

      ‘Private CIA’ and top USAID contractor cultivates anti-Correa
      environmental groups

Some of the environmental and Indigenous groups in the opposition to 
Rafael Correa and his progressive Citizens’ Revolution were funded by 
the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) 
a front for US intelligence created by the Ronald Reagan 
administration’s CIA in the 1980s.

While the NED’s publicly available grants database 
shows hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grants distributed to 
these individual groups, the most substantial sums of money in Ecuador 
flowed from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In 2006, in the final months of Ecuador’s neoliberal government, USAID’s 
top activities in the country consisted of ostensible anti-drug 
operations, with “counternarcotics” initiatives making up 
the majority 
of its budget.

USAID’s official statistics 
show that its top partners that year were the Pentagon, State 
Department, and Ecuadorian government, respectively. The contractor 
Chemonics had a comparatively small $1.2 million contract as part of the 
agency’s “Environmental Support Program.”

USAID Ecuador 2006
USAID’s funding for Ecuador in 2006

But by 2009, Correa was publicly challenging US imperialism, 
collaborating with other leftist leaders in Latin America, particularly 
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and turning Ecuador into a member of 
the Bolivarian trade alliance ALBA. So USAID’s priorities in the region 
quickly shifted.

The for-profit firm Chemonics became a top recipient of USAID Ecuador 
contracts, raking in $5.4 million in 2009 to work on “Sustainable 

Forests and Coasts 
suddenly one of USAID’s top programs in the nation. Now, Washington was 
committed to funding an environmentalist opposition to Correa.

Though it was wracked by a series of scandals, including accusations of 
and racism, 
Chemonics was an ideal partner for outsourcing gray operations and 
ensuring plausible deniability for foreign meddling.

Indeed, Chemonics has long acted as a US intelligence pass-through, with 
its founder explaining to the New York Times that he created the firm in 
order to “have my own CIA 

When Washington and its allies launched a dirty war on Syria in 2011, 
Chemonics was used to funnel tens of millions of dollars to the White 
Helmets, a faux humanitarian initiative that functioned as a propaganda 
ancillary for the jihadist gangs 
<https://thegrayzone.com/2016/10/02/white-helmets-us-military-intervention-regime-change-syria/> the 
US had armed and trained to destabilize the country.

By 2013, USAID was pouring a plurality of its Ecuador budget into 
anti-Correa environmental initiatives 
“Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption” and “Sustainable Forests and 
Coasts” were USAID’s top activities, and “General 
Protection” was the largest sector, with $16 million that year.

Chemonics was USAID’s top partner in Ecuador, with $11 million in 
alone (significantly greater than the second-biggest recipient, the 
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, with just $4 million that year).

USAID Ecuador 2013 climate change environment
In 2013, USAID poured millions into environmental groups to counter 
Correa’s infrastructure projects

2013 became a very controversial year for the US agency. Bolivia’s 
socialist President Evo Morales, a close ally of Correa, expelled USAID 
from his country, condemning it for supporting opposition groups and 
destabilizing his democratically elected government.

As with Ecuador, Chemonics had been one of USAID’s top partners in 
Bolivia, with a $10.5 million contract for “democracy-building” 
in the country.

The “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” program that USAID ran in 
Bolivia happened to share the same name as a regime-change scheme 
targeting the government of socialist President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

That year, WikiLeaks published an explosive 2006 US embassy cable that 
revealed that USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) had a 
“5-point strategy” for regime change in Venezuela 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06CARACAS3356_a.html>: “1) 
Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political 
Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) 
Isolating Chavez internationally.”

Morales and Correa understood that this USAID-OTI plan was a 
regime-change blueprint, and Washington was using the same tactics 
against them.

Around the same time in Ecuador, local media outlets had begun to ask 
questions about USAID and Chemonics. A 2012 report in the newspaper El 
Telégrafo, titled “Farmers discover ‘aims’ of NGO funded by USAID 
noted that Chemonics’ “Sustainable Forests and Coasts” program was based 
in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Guayas, and Manabí.

“The project is exerting suspected political interference because 
site of operation is in the areas with the most minerals and natural 
resources,” the newspaper wrote. “The same occurs in other parts of 
Latin America when the region tries to economically and scientifically 
manage these resources for itself.”

A Correa administration official, Gabriela Rosero, told El Telégrafo, 
“We realized that those who are implementing this project do not even 
have legal representation in Ecuador, but rather are in another country 
or are remotely controlling it from where the resources come from.”

These projects “are causing us doubts,” the Ecuadorian government 
official said.

USAID’s cover had been blown. In December 2013, the Correa government 
froze its cooperation 
with the US agency.

In 2014, USAID announced that it was leaving Ecuador 
Washington’s reaction was muted, but it was clear that Correa had 
the agency to leave. His government simultaneously expelled the US 
embassy’s military attaché and its anti-narcotics group as well.

“We will not accept being a colony of anyone,” Correa proclaimed at the 
time, adding that his country did not need USAID’s assistance.

By Correa’s last year in office in 2017, USAID Ecuador funding was at an 
all-time low of $18 million. But then next year, something dramatically 
changed: The Moreno government turned on its constituents, threw its 
weight behind the right-wing oligarchy and Washington, and declared war 
on Correísmo.

Moreno invited USAID back into the country, and Washington returned the 
favor by helping to bankroll the conservative regime he was 
constructing. The agency’s contracts in Ecuador suddenly skyrocketed in 
2018 by over 440%, from $18 million to $80 million. Moreno was being 
rewarded for his turncoat behavior.

The drastic increase reflected how USAID functions not as a traditional 
aid agency, but as a semi-covert soft-power arm of US empire.

The large sums of money that the US government handed out to opposition 
groups in Ecuador, along with the declassified embassy cables published 
by WikiLeaks – and even the words of CONAIE and Pachakutik leaders 
themselves – paint a clear picture of how Washington systematically 
divided Ecuador’s left.

Ecuadorian politics today remains deeply polarized between Correístas 
and anti-Correístas, much as politics in Venezuela is polarized between 
Chavistas and anti-Chavistas, and in Nicaragua between Sandinistas and 

The Citizens’ Revolution has built a mass base in working-class and poor 
communities, while other political forces have been unable to 
substantially erode its foundation.

Instead of challenging this popular core of Correísmo, smaller groups 
have managed to whittle away at the margins, targeting the middle class 
and educated youth, who are more susceptible to liberal 
identity-centered politics.

With millions of dollars in grants and control over media narratives, 
the US government has helped to astroturf a pseudo-left that has 
abandoned working-class politics and anti-imperialism while exploiting 
race, gender, and environmental issues to divide Ecuador’s progressive 
forces and weaken Correísmo.

In April 2021, when these small contingents managed to swing the 
presidential election in favor of a right-wing banker, Washington’s 
subversive long game had finally paid off.

And it is only a matter of time before this divide-and-conquer strategy 
is repeated 
<https://thegrayzone.com/2020/08/04/usaid-document-nicaragua-coup/> in 
another Latin American country with a left-wing government.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20210505/fa1054ea/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the News mailing list