Interview with Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa

Correa says that Ecuador's government-backed “Citizens’ Revolution” will accelerate at an intensifying pace over the next four years. With a majority in the National Assembly and a Constitution that was drafted and approved during his first government by a broad convergence of allied forces, his path seems wide open. He also promises to work with other South American governments to create an alternative financial architecture for the region.

June 18, 2009

Correa casts his ballot on election day. (Courtesy Presidencia)

The numbers speak for themselves: In April, Rafael Correa was reelected president of Ecuador with 51 percent of the vote. Correa had a 23-point advantage over the second-place candidate, ex-President Lucio Gutiérrez, and he won in 17 of the country's 24 provinces. In this interview the day after his victory with Spanish magazine Diagonal, Correa says that Ecuador's government-backed “Citizens’ Revolution” will accelerate at an intensifying pace over the next four years. With a majority in the National Assembly, and a Constitution that was drafted and approved during his first government by a broad convergence of allied forces, Correa’s path seems wide open.

You are now in a scenario that you dreamed of two years ago, with the approval of the constitution and your reelection…

I don’t have the scenario that I dreamed of two years ago, I assure you. I have dreamed of a scenario in which there is no misery, there is no inequality, there is no injustice. And we’ve yet to achieve that. You say that I had a democratic triumph, but that’s only in the formal sense of democracy. I maintain that Ecuador and Latin America have elections but have yet to arrive at what is democracy. In truth, I don’t believe that there is democracy in a country where there is so much injustice, so much inequality.

Whoever knows Latin America well, knows that it is the most inequitable region of the world. And Ecuador, within the most inequitable region of the world, is one of the most inequitable countries. One can find here the most insulting opulence alongside the most intolerable misery. That has to change, and only when that changes will we have true democracy. That is the scenario that I have always dreamed of, and that is why we are here. What are the means to reach that end? A country that is more just, with greater solidarity and equity. The electoral results have supported us broadly. That is a strong base of political support to continue deepening the changes. Rather than changing course, we are talking about deepening the changes that we have initiated, carrying them out more radically, in a more accelerated way.

With regard to the economic plan, we are going to continue deepening the reforms, continue emphasizing the popular economy (informal businesses, micro-enterprises, artisans, cooperatives, etc.), a sector that was made largely invisible by public policies. Today more than ever we have to support the popular economy. While in the modern capitalist sector you spend $10,000 to create a job position, in the popular sector, you create a position of employment with just $800.

In terms of social policy, we are going to continue with this social revolution that we began two years and three months ago, in which the characteristics of the government have become clear. In the economic sector too. We should continue with this revolution putting an end to the impunity for bankers, this is an urgent challenge. By December we are going to close the curtain on this tragedy that the banking system created and that still goes unpunished. That is urgent.

Finishing off this nightmare, continuing to collect taxes, recovering our natural resources, struggling against corruption and continuing also with this politics of opening to all the countries of the world, in a context of mutual respect, and especially pursuing Latin American integration and constructing this pan-regional country (“patria grande”) of which Jose Martí spoke of. What Ecuador did on Sunday was to ratify the project. What we are going to do is deepen and ratify that project: the Citizens’ Revolution.

From a more global perspective, the change that is needed is much more radical and relates to the architecture of global power of the corporations and mega-banks. Do you believe that it is possible to democratize this capitalist system that we live in now? Do you believe that it is possible to accomplish this change?

Within the system, no. By changing the system, yes, and that is what we are doing. But we can’t be naïve. The changes and revolutions in a society depend upon the correlation of forces. With this strong base of political support that we had Sunday, we can greatly deepen our revolution. But remember all the psychological trauma that they’ve inflicted upon us. For someone who doesn’t know Ecuador but reads its newspapers, we were the most unpopular, corrupt and incompetent government in the country’s history, in spite of the fact that we’ve had more than 70 percent popular support for the government’s performance – and popular support for the government’s performance isn’t the same thing as voter intention, to be sure. We always had about 56 percent of voter intention.

Correa greets voters on election day. (Courtesy Presidencia)

And there was a very interesting phenomenon in the elections. The opposition didn’t take one vote away from me; they split their vote among themselves. The right saw that little Alvaro Noboa didn’t have a chance, so they ditched him and bet everything on Lucio Gutiérrez. That also demonstrates the amorality of our powerful sectors, of the Ecuadorian right, because they put their interests before their principles. You know that nobody sensible can vote for a person with such serious moral and intellectual limitations as Lucio Gutiérrez. But the interest groups of the country bet their fortunes on him in an attempt to boycott the Citizens’ Revolution. But they shot themselves in the foot, thank God.

In any case, change depends upon the correlation of forces. On Sunday the Ecuadorian people clearly demonstrated their support for the government, they’ve given us more democratic legitimacy, and we can advance with much greater strength, thus giving greater legitimacy to these changes that, little by little, go on changing the correlation of forces in favor of the people. That means many things.

Six kids drowned a week ago in an absurd tragedy.1 They were poor kids. Go look how many times that story came out in the newspaper. If they had been the children of powerful families, I assure you it would have been covered by the newspapers for two months, and a commission would have been ordered, etc. So Ecuador has to change this correlation of forces, and we are going to continue doing it. Little by little the force of the people gains space and this translates into real changes in terms of the devotion of resources and public policies to the needs of the weak. That’s outside the capitalist system, and inside the socialist system of the 21st Century.

The crisis of global capitalism that we are living through in this moment does not come from outside the system, it comes from within. Among the recurring crises of capitalism, this is one of the most serious, but from within the system. We are not going to find solutions within the same system that is collapsing. We have to construct something new and better. I believe that there exists a consciousness among the majority of Latin American governments and leaders, so that that they are taking this opportunity to construct something new and different.

Correa in Guaytacama, Cotopaxi. (Courtesy Presidencia)

For example, we are constructing our own regional financial architecture to overcome our dependency. Nowadays they don’t need bombs, ships or planes to subjugate our countries; they need dollars. These have been the “arms” for subjugating us by means of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. There is no reason it has to be this way. With the resources that Latin America has, we could self-finance, but we engage in the absurdity of sending our resources, in the form of reserves, to the First World, by way of autonomous Central Banks.

With a regional financial architecture, our resources could stay in the region and we would do away with one of the principle forms of dependency that has served to subjugate us, which is financial dependency. That much is clear to us. We are advancing. We just created, at the level of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), the only system of regional compensation that will lessen the need for dollars, but there is still much to go over, to make the Bank of the South effective, and I hope that, in the short term, or at least in the medium term, we will create this fund of the reserves of the South, so that we can keep our money here in the region instead of sending it to the First World to finance the developed countries.

What are the goals and projects that you want to achieve in the next four years in your relations with Latin America and the United States?

With respect to Latin America, consolidating UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) and making it effective, because we can no longer keep talking about integration as an ethereal issue that nobody understands well, that nobody feels. Integration has to translate into concrete actions that benefit our population. And what are these concrete actions? One of the great errors of all the integrationist focus in most recent years – not necessarily at the beginning of integration, with the CAN (the Andean Community), etcetera – is that it was a commercial integration. It dealt with seeking out bigger markets based on the absurdity of competition.

Competition is a concept that is already very debatable at the level of economic agents, but at the level of countries – fraternal countries – are you going to compete? It’s a complete absurdity. And how have they competed? Whoever mistreats the labor force most, whoever puts it in the most precarious position, because that is the only way to gain competitiveness. And we deteriorate the standard of living of our population and, above all, our working class. And the ones that most benefit from the cheapest products are the First World.

We can’t keep falling into this trap. We have to create an integration with a different focus, a focus upon coordination, complementarity and cooperation among fraternal countries, transcending the merely commercial. For example, with energy integration. Latin America can be self-sufficient in energy, and that will also do away with a source of vulnerability. Also food security and financial integration… We have to work on all of these aspects. Advancements are being made, but they have to be made more rapidly. Within the UNASUR, basically one of the most immediate objectives is to look for a new regional financial architecture that does away with the absurdity that Latin America exports capital, finances the First World, and then gets down on its knees for them to give us some dollars. This cannot continue one more day.

Justin Delacour translated this interview for NACLA. It was first published in Spanish by the Madrid-based biweekly newspaper Diagonal.

1. Correa is referring to an incident that occurred on April 20 in Lumbisí, a small village in the northeast of Quito where a group of children were swept away by the current of the San Pedro River. Six children drowned.

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