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  • Critics contend that Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno (L) is seeking to reverse the progressive achievements of his leftist predecessor.

    Critics contend that Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno (L) is seeking to reverse the progressive achievements of his leftist predecessor. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 November 2018
Critics say Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno is seeking to reverse the progressive achievements of his leftist predecessor and move the country to the right.

"CONAIE and CREO direct the new National Electoral Council," announces a recent headline in the right-wing Ecuadorean newspaper El Universo.

CONAIE is a self-declared "left" federation representing Indigenous peoples in Ecuador. CREO is the party of the "defeated" right-wing presidential candidate in 2017.

I put "defeated" in quotes because CREO's electoral defeat – which they stupidly claimed was due to fraud – quickly morphed into a resounding victory as Moreno ruthlessly pushed through CREO's electoral platform and trashed his own.

Rafael Correa's left-wing government (2007-2017) delivered major social gains to Ecuador. Like Bolivia under Evo Morales, Ecuador under Correa avoided the macroeconomic blunders made by left governments in Venezuela and Brazil. However, Correa's party was too naive and relaxed about imposters and opportunists within its ranks (most importantly Lenin Moreno) and for that reason has become another kind of cautionary tale.

Illegally Fired

Ecuador's National Electoral Council (CNE) was illegally fired this year by Moreno's handpicked Transitory Council of Citizen Participation (CPCCS-T) – an illegally appointed body that has (illegally, of course, like everything about it) assumed the powers of a constituent assembly.

Correa's recent op-ed about all of this is very good. Moreno's CPCCS-T has been used to criminalize Correa's movement. It is easy to see why creating the CPCCS-T was crucial to doing this. Correa explained:

"Can you imagine a 'democracy' in which the president handpicks a council that proceeds to dismiss the Constitutional Court, the Judicial Council which oversees the judiciary, the National Electoral Council, the Attorney General, the ombudsman, and all six major regulators (superintendents)?"

It sparked international scandal when President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela called for the election of a constituent assembly in 2017. The Venezuelan opposition (backed by the usual suspects: big NGOs, Western media, various governments such as Canada's that ape the U.S. line on Venezuela) boycotted the vote and refused to run candidates.

Extravagant Praise

Moreno, in contrast, has actually been praised by the likes of Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch for creating the CPCCS-T. No such thing exists in Ecuador's constitution, and Moreno simply picked its members. Vivanco has singled out the CPCCS-T in particular for extravagant praise.

There were constitutionally debatable aspects to what Maduro did in Venezuela, but he was on incomparably more solid legal ground than Moreno was in Ecuador.

Moreno publicly bullied the (now fired) Constitutional Court to approve seven unrelated referendum questions. One of them, a confusing and convoluted question 3 that had crucial details burned in an annex, was needed by Moreno to claim that creating the CPCCS-T had democratic legitimacy. A draft report by the Constitutional Court called for edits to question 3 that would have foiled Moreno. 

The court failed to give Moreno what he wanted (but also failed to stand up to him), so he simply rammed the referendum through by decree using risible arguments. Under Correa, no nationwide referendum was ever held without a Constitutional Court ruling on the questions.

Bypassing the court allowed Moreno to cut short public debate, which was essential to getting the public to say yes. 

Making Headway

Despite being almost completely shut out of the national media in Ecuador (where Moreno quickly ensured that public media no longer provided any counterweight to private media), Correa and supporters were making headway explaining what question 3 did. A few extra weeks of campaigning would have made a huge difference, as Moreno clearly seemed to believe when he bypassed the Constitutional Court. Also, court-ordered edits to question 3 would have been a huge boost to the 'No' campaign.

In Venezuela, Maduro, unlike Moreno, was acting to defeat an insurrectionary foreign-backed opposition that has proven willing and able to overthrow the government by force and install a dictatorship, burn people alive in the streets, etc. I am sure my own country, Canada, would have declared martial law in Venezuela's situation, not elected a constituent assembly.

Power Brokers

Moreno, on the other hand, was simply working to restore the dominance of Ecuador's traditional power brokers. The traditional power brokers include elements of Ecuador's self-declared 'left.' In exchange for some perks (like this appointment to the CNE) certain 'leftists' in Ecuador have always made themselves useful to the right. That's why I bring up CONAIE's role in the new CNE.

So often (as in Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua) there are elements of the supposed 'left' willing to help out whomever Washington supports. These groups tend to do a lot to confuse and mislead progressives abroad about the situation inside countries such as Ecuador.

Whether it's ruthlessly trampling on Julian Assange's right to free expression, imposing a media monoculture in Ecuador or shredding its constitution and judicial independence, Moreno sure knows that powerful hypocrites abroad will cheer.

Joe Emersberger is a writer based in Canada whose work has also appeared in Counterpunch. This article first appeared on Znet.


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