Over the last two weeks, Lenin Moreno, the former President of Ecuador, published a two-part opinion piece in the Diario Las Américas, the first Spanish-language newspaper founded in South Florida, and the second oldest in the United States dedicated to Spanish-speaking readers, after La Opinion in Los Angeles.
In the article, Moreno seems to be trying to shape his legacy as Ecuador’s 46th President, justifying his early relationship with Rafael Correa and then laying out why he chose to oppose and overturn many of the policies of the former leader.
If nothing else, Moreno explains why he chose to only serve for one term and why he believes that Correa and his followers were leading the country toward a version of socialism that would cause the end of a free Ecuador.
Only time will tell how history sees Moreno’s efforts to steer Ecuador towards a more democratic and socially responsible country.
The following is the translated version of Moreno’s piece.
How Ecuador avoided being Venezuela
By Lenin Moreno
Against all predictions, in the Ecuadorian elections the candidate Guillermo Lasso won with a wide margin of more than 400,000 votes over the correista Andrés Arauz, of the so-called XXI Century Socialism.
It is attributed to me, which is not true, as having been the one who made this triumph possible. Too generous a vision. Honestly, there were several factors that were involved.
The mistakes made by Rafael Correa in his mandate: authoritarianism; deinstitutionalization; the lack of independence of functions; the persecution of political opponents; deaths never clarified; wanting to remain in power; no freedom of expression; harassment of communicators, journalists, and political analysts; the distancing of our natural markets (like the United States, for example).
More than one person wonders why the people persist in voting for their oppressors. There are many examples in the history of the world and in particular of Latin America. Perhaps the answer is found in what is known as “Stockholm Syndrome”, that is to say, the infatuation or excessive affection that victims of kidnapping develop towards their perpetrators.
During my youth, I was a militant of the Ecuadorian left like many of my generation. The invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Berlin Wall led us to disenchantment with that ideology that offered to solve all the world’s problems (inequality, hunger, unemployment, etc.) and that, on the contrary, produced hunger, disrespect for the human rights, executions, lack of freedom and absence of democratic principles.
I accompanied an immense number of my compatriots in Rafael Correa’s first presidential campaign. We saw him as brave but, above all, determined to lead democratically the social transformations to which we aspired in our youth. By decision of the movement, I was part of their ballot as a candidate for the vice presidency.
Initially, all expectations were being met. As vice president and due to my physical disability, I requested that a program be delegated to me for the defense of the rights of people with disabilities, which was later recognized inside and outside the country and which generated broad sympathy from Ecuadorians.
In the rest of the government administration, the efforts were similar. There were really the changes that we all expected (Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings saga says: “Saurón, the malefic leader, followed the path of all tyrants, he started out being good” …).
The change came in the last presidential term. By that time, I had refused the possibility of being a vice-presidential candidate again. I do not agree with the successive re-elections. I think that they are harmful to democracy and a lack of courtesy (to say the least) towards the members of the political movements, since it prevents the presence of new leaders, with fresh ideas for the management of directing a government.
In my absence (I was in Geneva fulfilling the mandate of the UN Secretary General, as Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility) changes happened that nobody expected. The desire to remain in power produced that the president was dressed in sinister behaviors; he did not consult the people about his new re-election, and an obsequious Assembly, added to a submissive Constitutional Court, decided to validate the indefinite re-elections, an option that he finally resigned, because the continuous errors had caused popular disenchantment. He correctly sensed that he would not win a new election.
It was then that the president decided to look for me in Geneva so that, according to his flattering words, I could “save the revolutionary process and protect the comrades against their gratuitous enemies.” Because only I could win the elections to the candidate of the right. Wearily, he flatly denied the possibility of corruption in his regime and swore that he would respect the decisions of my administration. “You are the president,” he repeated insistently.
A few months before the election, I had sent a communication to our political movement, expressing my disagreements with the way of conducting government management, with re-elections, with disrespect for freedom of expression, with authoritarianism, with the lack of freshness in international relations, with the absence of dialogue with social organizations, among many other issues.
As we expected, the electoral triumph occurred, despite a campaign in which verbal aggressiveness and the intensive use of lying messages in networks prevailed. The weather was tense and there was a lot of uncertainty about what my presidency would be like.
For my part, I was clear about what should be done: reconcile a polarized country at all levels and spheres, re-institutionalize and respect the autonomy of state functions and dialogue with all political and social spaces (as had been offered in that letter sent to the political movement).
The response of the former president was immediate: he called me a traitor and, with sewer language, began to question the decisions of my government and order the comrades who held leadership positions to resign, as, indeed, many did.
Very soon he forgot the promises made in Geneva.
The worst part came when I revealed the difficult economic situation in the country. He said that he left the “table served,” but I found bankrupt public finances, an almost unpayable foreign debt (expensive and short-term), hundreds of unfinished works (as well as defective and with acts of corruption) and billions of dollars of debt to suppliers.
The situation was terrifying, and I told the country so.
They were desperate moments. I did not understand how they could have been so irresponsible with the future of Ecuador, after having had the greatest economic boom in history.
There was no time to lose. We immediately generated citizen support, we made the right economic and social decisions and, in a popular consultation that, among other questions, asked for popular opinion on the elimination of indefinite re-elections of leaders, the majority of the people responded with a huge “Yes.”
Needless to say, the ex-president’s anger flared. If the previous policies of waste and advertising fanfare continued (2.8 million dollars a week, for 10 years), the country and dollarization would have no future, and we would be on our way to being another failed state like Venezuela.
You had to choose between the correct and the popular. I decided on the right thing to do. We refreshed international relations (once again giving priority to countries that, for a long time, had a very good relationship with ours); we renegotiated the debts under totally favorable conditions; there was tolerance, we respected freedom of expression and human rights, and we put public finances in order.
And something very important: we created the largest social protection network in the history of the country. The most excluded became the privileged.
We arranged a frontal fight against drug trafficking that had enjoyed a strange permissiveness during the previous government. The National Liberation Army -ELN- was asked to leave the country because, while they were negotiating peace in Colombia, the murders and kidnappings continued in that sister nation. Under these conditions, we could not continue to provide the national territory for supposed “peace negotiations.”
We asked the international hacker Julián Assange to leave our embassy in London, since he had repeatedly violated the rules of asylum (rudely intervening in the politics of friendly countries) and carried out acts of aggression that respect for this space of opinion does not allow to mention.
It goes without saying that the former president’s opposition was furious and sought the opportunity to destabilize the government, as it did in October 2019, at a time when the indigenous movement was protesting against the elimination of the fuel subsidy that the government had decreed. For a long time, this subsidy had mainly favored smugglers, drug traffickers and those who owned high-end cars, so we proposed to create -with this money- a trust that would benefit the development of the field and that, in addition, would be administered by the indigenous movement. They did not accept it and exercised their right to protest.
Sooner rather than later, correists joined forces, distorting the protest of the indigenous movement, generating chaos and destruction with a violence never before seen in the country. Something similar to what is happening in Colombia today. Perhaps the most criminal act was the burning of the building of the Comptroller General of the State, with special dedication to the offices where the documents proving the corruption of that government rested.
In order to regain peace, I decided to dialogue and repeal the decree. Today, the fuel subsidy is phased out.
Many wonder, how did Ecuador defeat the liar Socialism of the XXI Century? I think I have an answer that is very close to reality and that is based on the tasks that correspond to each one to save the democracy of a country.
The ruler must, as I said, do the right thing even if it is unpopular and – it may seem a truism – tell the truth at any cost.
It must respect the institutionality and freedom of expression. You must renounce, from the beginning, the vain temptation to run for office. It must work for future generations, not for the next elections.
Citizens should avoid deluding themselves into thinking that development is effortless; you must stop thinking of messianic solutions to your problems, because they never come miraculously. In this case, time does not act as a factor for change, so they must stop believing that the situation cannot get worse, and -on the contrary- look in the mirror of Venezuela. There could, of course, be a point of no return. Freedom is a divine gift, intended for those who are willing to work and fight for it; let’s not wait to lose it to recognize its importance.
The candidate must align himself with what he thinks is correct in the government’s decisions and have the courage not to be convinced by political advisers who assume that the extreme opposition generates electoral revenues. Correísmo even began to use the phrases of “Lasso is Moreno” or “Lasso pushes the chair” (in reference to my disability) because they mistakenly thought that this “interpreted the majority feeling” and would help their claims of victory.
I have always insisted that polls should not be overly trusted. The recent history of elections teaches us that there are usually completely unexpected surprises and that, in the ballot, the differences can be traced. We must ensure that indecision takes sides so that what happened in Peru in the last elections does not happen. There is no possible margin: if you do not work with them, the undecided will end up playing on the opposite side to freedom and democracy.
A story I heard in my youth (and never knew who its author was) said that … the forest was burning, and the animals were amazed at its misfortune. Only a little bird (not to be confused with those that appear to certain rulers) went to the stream and with its beak drank water that it then placed in the fire. An elephant reproached him, “Don’t be silly, do you think that with the water you carry in your beak you will end the fire?” to which the bird replied, “surely not, but I’m doing my part.”
How to end the nefarious and lying Socialism of the XXI century? Well, each one doing the part that corresponds to him.