21st Century Socialism in Ecuador?
In late 2006 Ecuador elected self styled left wing populist Rafeal Correa and it seemed the ´pink tide´ had washed over this Andean nation. The social movements, which had been busy overthrowing one government in 2005 and bringing the next one to its knees in early 2006, overwhelmingly supported the mostly unknown candidate and helped propel him to power. Once elected, many of these same people formed part of the initial core of a group of militant supporters who literally invaded congress and chased away any organized political opposition, allowing Correa to consolidate his grip on power. From the point of view of most progressives, both inside and outside the nation, Ecuador and Rafeal Correa seemed to be doing everything right; but the honeymoon wouldn’t last.
In the two years since, Correa has mostly abandoned the social movements and come to resemble something much closer to a dictator than a champion of the people. The 21st century socialism Ecuador was promised two years ago is beginning to look a lot like 20th century nationalism.
In the past two years Ecuador has become increasingly isolated in the world. The government, with little pretense has seized many foreign owned corporations, severely tightened immigration laws and made enemies with many of it’s neighbors, nearly going to war with Colombia last year and briefly losing Brazil’s ambassador over a diplomatic spat arising from the eviction of a Brazilian construction company. Correa has also adopted what is widely considered to be the worlds most isolationist economic measures, banning or greatly limiting the importation of hundreds of essential foreign products as well as organizing a well funded “Ecuador first” campaign. The borders drawn between Ecuador and the rest of the world have never been so clear.
Correa rallies the nation around him with his fiery oratories against Colombia or the United States, and labels any opposition as “unpatriotic”. His fulfillment of a campaign promise to default on some of the foreign debt as well as the perception that he remains an outsider in a land that loathes politicians, keeps him fairly popular. Though, as his real agenda has become clearer he faces growing opposition from the left. Correa has more then tripled military spending as compared to his predecessor and has shown that he will not tolerate dissent. Many of the smaller protests that have begun to occur have been repressed by armed military, a new phenomenon in Ecuador’s democratic history. He has also ordered police to arrest protesters at his public outings.
The student and indigenous movements have steadily distanced themselves from Correa and his policies, though to a certain degree they are somewhat fractured which has thus far limited their effective response. Still, January saw a nationwide strike by environmentalists and indigenous movements against a new mining law, the national teachers union has declared itself in “rebellion” to new governmental policies and the student movement inches closer to action everyday. It is likely that the social movements will not stay fractured for long and will increasingly come into conflict with the progressively more authoritarian president.
Government propaganda fills the streets and airwaves tirelessly declaring the arrival of ¨21st century socialism”, but those words ring more hollow everyday. This is not 21st century socialism, but rather 20th century nationalism redressed to fit modern times, in this case a left leaning South America.
Tags: Ecuador Correa Nationalis
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