Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ecuador's Correa vows to deepen the "citizens' revolution"

On May 24, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa marked national independence day ceremonies with a promise to "radicalise and deepen" the "citizens' revolution" his government is seeking to lead.
Correa was joined the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, which rises above the capital Quito, by Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The event celebrated the 187th anniversary of the Battle of Pinchincha, when Ecuador won its independence from Spanish rule.

Speaking one month after becoming the first Ecuadorian president to win re-election in 30 years, Correa said Ecuadorians were celebrating "two liberating births". One was from Spanish rule, and the other through his April 26 election victory on a platform of pro-people economic development.

Correa said the Ecuadorian people had chosen a "profound, rapid and peaceful revolution". He promised to "deepen and radicalise" the process of change, "now, not tomorrow".

"We will not change course", Correa said.

 
Indicating how far the process of change has to go from the system of domination by corporate interests, Correa said: "Ecuador and Latin America still do not have democracy. At most, we have elections."

Correa announced that Ecuador would become a full member of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). ALBA is a trading bloc promoting pro-people regional integration based on solidarity and cooperation. Its current members are Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica and Saint Vincents and the Grenadines.

He said all Latin American countries "have a common past and our common destiny is unavoidable. The vast majority of Latin American leaders are fighting for Latin American integration."

On the same weekend, Chavez and Correa signed five bilateral cooperation agreements on oil exploration, tourism, food sovereignty, mining and banking.

Correa said key sectors of the economy, including oil and mining, must be in government hands: "We will fulfill the goal of having strategic sectors in government hands."

So far, he has shied away from nationalisations.

Correa vowed to "clean up" the press, which he described as a "corrupt instrument of the oligarchy" and the main "enemy of change". He said his government would conduct a review into the granting of media licences and provide greater legal rights to challenge media assertions.

With Chavez, Correa proposed the creation of a Human Rights and Freedom of Expression Commission in the South American Union of Nations.

Ecuador has also sought to dump much of its sizeable foreign debt, accumulated by previous corrupt governments.

In December, Correa halted payments on US$510 million of its 2012 bonds and, in March, on a further $2.7 billion of 2030 bonds. He said the debts were "illegitimate and illegal".

Since then, Ecuador has offered to buyback up to $3.2 billion of defaulted bonds for as little as 30 cents in the dollar, an offer lifted to 35 cents.

There are indications this move will be successful in ridding Ecuador of much of its debt.
Correa has also increased the minimum wage and social welfare, introduced new laws on rights for nature and a legal right to drinking water.

However, his government has also come under increasing criticism from environmental and indigenous groups.

There are criticisms of moves such as allowing genetically modified organisms and denying communities a right of veto over potentially harmful mining in indigenous and ecologically vulnerable areas.

These organisations - led by CONAIE, which represents the 40% of Ecuadorian people who are indigenous - have helped overthrow three presidents in the past decade.

As Correa seeks to deepen his "citizens' revolution", he will need to overcome the rift with the social movements or face deepening discontent.

First published in Green Left Weekly, May 30, 2009.

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