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“Markets are a Terrible Master,” Says President Rafael Correa of Ecuador
by Jonathan Nack
Tuesday Apr 29th, 2014 11:44 AM
We believe in society with markets, but society must govern the markets... Markets [are] a very good servant, but a terrible master,” said Pres. Correa, during a wide ranging interview with Rose.
“Markets are a Terrible Master,” Says President Rafael Correa of Ecuador

by Jonathan Nack

President Rafael Correa explained what he means when he describes himself as a “modern socialist,” in an interview with journalist Charlie Rose. “We believe in societies with markets, but not in societies [ruled] by markets – that's the difference... One of the [biggest] problems in the present time is that markets are controlling everything. We believe in society with markets, but society must govern the markets... Markets [are] a very good servant, but a terrible master,” said Pres. Correa, during a wide ranging interview with Rose.

Pres. Correa said that being a modern socialist means to, “look for social justice.” “My political thinking has been influenced by the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and also Liberation Theology.

Pres. Correa's appearance on the Charlie Rose's show was part of his recent trip to the U. S., in which he had speaking engagements at Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . The televised interview by Rose was certainly a high profile appearance by Correa, and in part, a response to gernerally negative coverage of his government by major media outlets in the U.S., but the Ecuadoran President's comments attracted only limited coverage by the mainstream corporate media.

[A video of the full half hour interview, which aired on PBS on April 14, 2014, is available for viewing at: https://archive.org/details/KQED_20140415_070000_Charlie_Rose and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lVDyDpwWsQ and elsewhere on the internet ]

Pres. Correa said the goal of his government is, “to eliminate poverty...this is the moral imperative of our government, I think for Ecuador, and the entire world. To have a country with justice, dignity, prosperity, and solidarity.”

“Our economic performance is one of the best in the region,” said President Correa. “For instance, our unemployment rate is around 4%... According to the Economic Commission for Latin America for the United Nations, Ecuador is the leader in reducing inequality in the region, one of three countries reducing poverty.;.We are called the Ecuadoran miracle,” touted Pres. Correa

“Development is basically a political process, especially in Latin America, explained Pres. Correa. You have to change power relationships. Why are we underdeveloped? Because we have historically been controlled by little powerful groups – our elite. So, you have to change these power relationships and we are doing exactly that through very democratic processes.”

Correa said that this is being accomplished by, “changing institutions, changing policies, and changing programs. For instance, we have a new constitution. The former constitution gave a lot of advantages to some groups... He said that under Ecuador's former constitution, it was possible to own both a bank and a media outlet. “That was a very important source of illegitimate power for some groups.” Under the new constitution, one can own a bank or a media outlet, but not both, explained Correa.

Rose's questions were polite and conversational, as is his style, but he touched on the major critical concerns given voice to by major U. S..media. Pres. Correa responsed were affabley and with sophistication to each question in English.

Pres. Correa said that being a modern socialist means to, “look for social justice.” “My political thinking has been influenced by the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and also Liberation Theology.

Asked about Ecuador's relations with the United States, Pres. Correa said, “I think we have good relations, but it could be better. [We could] know each other in a better way, to understand what is going on in Ecuador. To know a little bit more, not just Ecuador, the whole of Latin America.” However, when asked by Rose if he felt his voice was being heard in Washington D.C, Correa responded, “I don't think so.”

“The foreign policy of the United States hasn’t taken into account Latin America and this is a mistake,” said Correa. “Perhaps the biggest economies, but there are several other countries that are not much taken into account; and that is a situation that must change.”

“Usually, American foreign policies have been wrong. You need to know us...better,” Pres. Correa commented bluntly.

Pres. Correa asserted that, “some governments, sometimes very questionable governments, if they are considered allies of the United States, everything is fine. With other governments, like the Ecuadorian government right now, if they consider that these governments are not good allies of the United States, everything is wrong – everything is bad.”

“There is a dual standard of the government, of politicians, in the States. For instance, they criticize Cuba [and] Venezuela, but they are very close friends, for instance, [with] Saudi Arabia. Can you tell me that inside Saudi Arabia there is democracy? There is freedom?...So, at least, we can find here a dual standard.”

Changing U. S. foreign policy towards Latin America is, however, “... not a priority for us, because we are an independent country.” Correa wants the U. S. to just, “let us to continue to do what we think are the [best] things for our people.

Asked by Rose what he thought about the U. S., Correa said “the United States is a wonderful country, but you have a problem. Everything is a function of big capital, a function of the market. You didn't feel this problem before, because of technological advances, with the crisis, when you have a scarcity of resources, you start feeling this problem. Middle class families haven't recovered the level of income before [the] crisis, but bankers...have record profits.”

Pres. Correa said he thinks that in the U. S. the problem is that,”the market [is] controlling society and capital is controlling human beings.”...“One percent of the American people controls more than one third of the national wealth. Ten percent of the wealthiest people control seventy five percent of the national wealth.”

Pres. Correa opposes so-called free trade agreements advocated by the U.S. government and multinational corporations. “Who created modern protectionism? Alexander Hamilton in the States. Always the United States, traditionally, opposed free markets because [it] didn't have enough technological progress... Once it got all this, and it is the most efficient economy in the world, now it preaches free markets.”..He challenged the idea that free trade leads to greater development in the underdeveloped world. He pointed out that Mexico has had a free trade agreement with the U.S. for two decades, but that hasn't reduced poverty in Mexico. “If that was true, Mexico would be a developed country now,” said Correa.

Correa said that he doesn't think Pres. Obama is trying to undermine his government, however, that there are some withing branches of the U.S. government which are. “I think President Obama is a very good person...,but certain groups inside the government, inside the Congress,...extreme right wing groups, are against Ecuador and they are manipulating information. They are telling things that are not true.”

Rose asked Correa to respond to charges that his government is restricting freedom of the press, which have been featured prominently in mainstream media coverage of Ecuador. Rose asked if Ecuador’s media is free to criticize the President. Correa said he is criticized by Ecuador's privately owned media, “all the time – every day. Most of them are owned by this elite that we are fighting.

“It’s a good thing to have public media, which is not controlled by the government. [Public media] has independence and can criticize the government,” he stated.

Regarding the granting of asylum to Julian Assange, of Wiki leaks, in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, Correa said, ““Perhaps I don’t agree with what Julian Assaying did. But that is not the problem. The problem is not politics. The problem is justice. We examined for two months the request of asylum of Julian Assange, and we concluded that … there was not a guarantee of due process. For that reason we gave asylum to Julian Assange.”

Asked about opposition from some environmentalists and indigenous peoples opposing his government's plans for further limited oil exploration and development in Ecuador's Amazon region, “they have... the right to do demonstrations, to protest, ectera.” However, Pres. Correa charged that some protests have been violent and that is the reason why some activists, accused of violent acts, are being prosecuted.

Activists opposing oil development in the Amazon have recently filed petitions which they say contain the required number of signatures for there to be a national referendum on the project. Ecuador's independent branch of government in charge of elections, the CNE, has yet to rule on the number of valid signatures.

Ecuador's constitution provides for the right to a national referendum, which is a right not granted under the U. S. Constitution.

One subject that didn't come up during the interview by Rose interview was the Ecuadoran court judgment of $9.5 Billion handed down against Chevron Corporations. The judgment stems from the massive poisoning of Ecuador's environment by Texaco Petroleum, which became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001 . Chevron has refused to pay and has been supported by legal rulings in U.S. courts.

Pres. Correa admitted that his government has made mistakes, “but, at least, our people know very well that they have the power. That we are acting in order to serve them. That now Ecuador is a sovereign country and our state is a popular state in order to serve, I insist, the majority of people.”

“The world order is not just unjust, unfair, it is immoral – double standards everywhere, ecterera. Always everything in function of the stronger, not in function of justice. If we can contribute, from a little country like Ecuador, to have a better world, that would be wonderful.”