In a presidential campaign that has seen a convergence of strange bedfellows, the Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador, or PCMLE, took an unprecedented stance in deciding to support right-wing banker turned politician, Guillermo Lasso, in the second round of the country’s presidential elections.
Ecuador Elections 2017
"We call on our militants and 60 percent of Ecuadorean people who voted for change in the first round to support Lasso because it is the only way to end a regime that for 10 years has persecuted teachers, workers, Indigenous people, journalists, environmentalists,” said Geovanni Atarihuana, the director of Popular Unity, or UP, the PCMLE’s electoral wing.
The move comes in spite of Lasso’s role in the infamous “Bank Holiday” crisis. The opposition candidate is accused of not only having prepared the legal framework for the collapse of the country’s banking sector, which left millions in poverty and led to mass migration, but also of profiteering from the worst-ever financial and banking crisis the South American nation ever lived.
Beyond his political track record, Lasso’s social, economic and political pledges signal the most radical form of neoliberal capitalism that most leftist organizations avowedly oppose.
Moreover, the domestic and foreign policies under the governments of President Rafael Correa — including major social investments that have lifted millions out of poverty along with a removal of U.S. troops from the country — are measures that would garner the support of many on the left in many countries.
So what is the basis of the “left”-right alliance between the former Maoists of the PCMLE with Lasso?
For many observers, the position stems from the reforms implemented by Correa to the country’s education system, which ultimately displaced the position of the PCMLE-affiliated National Union of Educators, known as UNE.
The UNE, founded in the 1950s, was for many years the largest teachers union with strong mobilization capacity and was openly connected to the UP predecessor, the Popular Democratic Movement, or MPD. The union controlled hiring at public institutions, and current government officials say that PCMLE-MPD members were favored for positions over qualified teachers.
Through the UNE, the PCMLE had a steady revenue stream as well as a mechanism for recruitment.
The changes to the country’s education system expanded access, but also looked to centralize curriculum and create regulations for quality control. This meant placing requirements on teachers and creatING other filters that would circumvent the controls over hiring the union had accumulated. Not surprisingly, the UNE did not support these measures.
From early on, the PCMLE and its affiliated groups and fronts, took a hostile position to Correa’s Citizen’s Revolution, including supporting the attempted coup on Sept. 30, 2010, according to reports by El Comercio.
Although the UNE was dissolved for irregularities and MPD was removed from the electoral registry for not obtaining the sufficient amount of votes in consecutive elections, the PCMLE formed the UP as a new political party.
In the first round of elections last month, the PCMLE didn’t support Lasso and were some of the strongest critics throughout his campaign, calling the bankers “the worst criminals in the country” and criticizing his connection to the banking crisis of 1999 as well as his labor reform proposals, which they said would not benefit Ecuadorean workers.
The group aligned instead with the center-left Democratic Left and the Pachakutik party, supporting former military general Paco Moncayo for president. Moncayo finished a distant fourth in the first round, and in many Indigenous strongholds, did not obtain the support of the electorate, who in some villages voted overwhelmingly for Lasso.
While it is certainly true that several left-wing groups and individuals who were once aligned with Correa at the beginning of his government have distanced themselves and formed their own parties, the case of the PCMLE is distinct.
According to a book by former CIA agent Philip Agee titled “Inside the Company: CIA Diary,” during the 1950s the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operated in the country coordinating, infiltrating organizations to create general discomfort with the progressive movements and division in revolutionary parties. The entries in the CIA diary suggest that the PCMLE, which was founded in 1964 as a break-off from the Communist Party of Ecuador, was an example of this.
teleSUR made several attempts to contact the UP for an interview but did not receive a response.