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What's at Stake in Ecuador's Elections?
by Harvey Goldberg
Tuesday Feb 2nd, 2021 6:13 AM
Andrés Arauz is the candidate for President of Union Por La Esperanza. Despite years of repression of the progressive/left, this party allied with former President Rafael Correa has led in all polls over the last month.
[Photo credit:]

QUITO, ECUADOR – Ecuador will hold critical elections for President and its National Assembly on February 7. At stake is whether or not Ecuador will change direction in the country's efforts to recover from being hit hard by the COVID -19 pandemic and a severe economic recession, verging on depression.

Will Ecuador continue to seek agreements with the IMF and western capital? Will Ecuador continue with a neoliberal economic agenda of austerity: slashing government budgets, social programs, laying off government employees, and privatizing government assets as is demanded by western capital?
Will the government continue its geopolitical orientation towards the United States, and its hostility toward progressive and left led governments in Latin America, including its support for regime change in Venezuela?

Will Ecuador change directions and return to policies similar to those that characterized the ten year Presidency of Rafael Correa (2007-2017)? Or could Ecuador elect its first Indigenous President?

The current government of President Lenín Moreno and the IMF are pushing hard to get through as many neoliberal economic reforms as they can before the new President and National Assembly takes office in May. Their idea is to lock any new government into a neoliberal economic system. An IMF loan agreed to last August required the government to sell gasoline and diesel domestically at world market prices, instead of at a discount. It also requires the government to relinquish oversight of the Central Bank of Ecuador and place it under the control of private management.

Another loan agreed to in January with the U.S. Development Corporation requires the privatization of a major oil refinery and parts of its electricity grid. It also requires Ecuador to prohibit Chinese corporations from construction in Ecuador's telecommunications networks. These loan agreements require ratification by Ecuador's National Assembly which has yet to occur. Critics have argued that many of these reforms are prohibited by Ecuador's Constitution.
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Capitalism in Ecuador has been surviving the pandemic by increasing the exploitation of the working class and farmers. Ecuador's $480/month minimum wage has been waived. Farmers are getting much less for their products. A recent UNICEF study found that a majority of Ecuadorians are now impoverished.
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There are a total of 16 Presidential tickets in the election. To win in the first round of voting, a candidate must either receive more than 50 percent of the votes, or at least 40 percent and be at least 10 percentage points ahead of the second place finisher. Voters can also vote for “nulo” (none of the candidates). Voting in Ecuador is mandatory.
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Only three of the tickets have enough support to have a chance of winning. They offer three starkly differing platforms.


Andrés Arauz, is the candidate for President of a progressive/left electoral alliance called Union Por La Esperanza (Union for Hope - “UNES”). Arauz has led a crowded field in 17 polls in a row since the end of November, 2020, according to a Wikipedia page that tracks Presidential polling in Ecuador.
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Arauz is campaigning to restore the county's dignity, sovereignty, and independence. His campaign is focused on undoing much of what has transpired under four years of President Lenin Moreno.

Arauz is a staunch ally of former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. His opponents have attacked Arauz, claiming that he would only be a figurehead for Correa. Arauz and UNES have never backed away from their alliance with Correa and have sought to closely identify themselves with Correa,

A socialist reformer like Correa, Arauz belongs to a left grouping which calls itself Revolucion Ciudadana (Citizen's Revolution), and whom others often refer to as the Correistas. Arauz has said, “My government will recreate the Citizens Revolution that presided in Ecuador from 2007 until 2017,” he said. “Every decision I make will be in consultation with the architect of that government, Rafael Correa,” said Arauz, as reported by Liam Higgins in

His economic plan is more Keynesian than socialist. He opposes austerity measures which have slashed government spending on social programs and led to massive layoffs. Instead, Arauz advocates government stimulus to the economy. Arauz has opposed the privatization of government owned assets and vowed to retrieve those privatized under Moreno, but he and UNES have not called for further nationalizations.

He stands for a strong central government that intervenes to direct Ecuador's capitalist economy, taxes the wealthy, and which provides social programs for the masses, with an emphasis on helping the poorest Ecuadorians. .

Arauz opposes deals the Moreno government has made with the IMF and other western capitalist banks and is more open to doing business with China. “My administration will end the relationship with the IMF and reject the demands they have placed on the economy. Instead of austerity, we will boost growth with increased public spending, higher taxes on the wealthy and capital controls to stop money from leaving the country. I reject the dangerous free market orthodoxy that has brought Ecuador to its knees and will stress internal development and social justice.”. “China has been a good partner for Ecuador and I will reestablish that relationship when I am in office,” said Arauz.
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Arauz would change Ecuador's foreign policy to one that was independent of U.S. and more oriented towards progressive and left governments. He would pull Ecuador out of the group of countries advocating regime change in Venezuela. Arauz isn't proposing anything like the Venezuelan model for Ecuador, but he does respect Venezuela's sovereign right to solve its own problems without foreign interference and he would restore diplomatic relations with Caracas. He would also orient towards regional cooperation, including in ALBA, an alternative regional grouping of progressive and left governments.

The U.S. is keenly aware of what is at stake if Arauz is elected and is doubtlessly working behind the scenes to prevent that from happening.

A controversial criminal conviction of Correa for corruption has him banned from seeking public office. UNES had sought to make Correa their candidate for Vice-president before an appeals court upheld his conviction. Last week the electoral authority banned the Arauz and UNES campaigns from even using the image or words of Rafael Correa. Correa resides in Belgium with his Belgian wife and family, and faces an arrest warrant if he returns to Ecuador. INTERPOL rejected an arrest warrant Ecuador requested on Correa. The use of politically motivated criminal prosecutions to suppress political opposition is known in Latin America as “lawfare.”
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Arauz is not the firebrand Correa is. He appears to be more of a soft spoken intellectual and technocrat. He has a Phd in economics. He served in economic ministries under Correa including a stint as the head of the Central Bank of Ecuador. At 35 years of age, Arauz also represents a younger generation of leaders.

Immediate relief to one million of the poorest Ecuadorians, who have born the brunt of both the pandemic and the recession, has been promised by Arauz in the form of a $1000 payment.

Increasing oil production and mining in Ecuador as a source of hard currency, is a major emphasis for Arauz. He claims to be an environmentalist who would see it done as safely and cleanly as possible. He has proposed a “circular economy” which emphasizes recycling, including industrial waste. He is also for increasing taxes on the wealthy and capital controls to prevent the wealthy from moving their money outside the country.

Arauz is against abortion rights for women. (In Ecuador, the left-right political divide is not the same as in the U.S. Many on the left have conservative social values, and on the right, there are quite a number that are more liberal on social questions.)

Many of Arauz's supporters have expressed confidence that he can win the Presidency in the first round of voting – no other candidate appears to have a chance of doing that.

The rise of Arauz and UNES is remarkable given the full-court press against them that's been conducted since 2017. They were barred from registering their own new electoral party and there have been constant legal efforts to get them barred from the election when they joined other parties. Rafael Correa and other leaders have been prosecuted, convicted, imprisoned and banned from running for office. The government even arrested and held in jail for a while the elected Prefect Paola Pabón, the highest elected official of Pichincha Province where the nation's capital Quito is located. Pabón still faces prosecution for insurrection for daring to politically support the mass protests that occurred in October, 2019.
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All major Ecuadorian media, private and state, have conducted intense propaganda campaigns to discredit Citizen's Revolution and Correa since 2017. Almost every day negative stories and editorials about them have been featured in the press. All this to prevent the possibility that the left tendency associated with Correa could ever again win re-election.


Guillermo Lasso is the main opposition to Arauz. He is the candidate of the two largest right-wing parties in Ecuador, the Partido Social Cristiano and CREO. He is the former CEO of one of Ecuador's biggest banks and a member of Ecuador's elite. This is his third run for the Presidency – he lost a close runoff election to Lenin Moreno in 2017.

Lasso has criticized Moreno's economic austerity and deals with foreign capital, but has advocated the same basic neoliberal economic policies as Moreno. He is running on the slogan, “capacity for change,” but it is questionable that he represents significant change from the policies of the current government. (Critics of Pres. Moreno claim that after he defeated Lasso in 2017, Moreno abandoned the economic platform he campaigned on and adopted those of Lasso, including appointing Lasso's top economic advisors to government.)

Lasso is staunchly pro-capitalist. He has said that he is an, “...unapologetic believer in the power of capitalism, small government and the right for people to prosper without outside interference.” Lasso likes to make the false claim that if Arauz is elected, he will try to make Ecuador into another Venezuela. He strongly advocates reducing taxes on the wealthy and on businesses, claiming with classic trickle down logic that it will create jobs. He is for lowering tariffs on imports, something that impacts the wealthy more.

Lasso emphasizes the need for austerity and to reduce the size of government. He advocates attracting private capital investment, including from international capital. He would not default on any of the loans Ecuador has made.

“The so-called austerity of the Moreno administration has not been enough,” he has said. “Getting out of the current mess and the coronavirus pandemic require much more discipline. The size of government must be reduced...,” he says.

He is for maintaining strong ties with the U.S., including pushing for regime change in Venezuela, and distancing Ecuador from China.

Lasso claims he would stop further oil exploration in Ecuador's Amazon, but also says that he wants to double Ecuador's oil production. The parties that back Lasso are not known for their environmental protection concerns.

Unlike right-wingers in the U.S., Lasso is liberal on social issues in the Ecuadorian context. For example, he supports a form of gay marriage, though he does not support abortion rights for women.

Lasso is not a proto-fascist in the manner of Donald Trump or President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. He does not attack the legitimacy of democratic institutions, although the parties that back him have routinely flouted provisions in Ecuador's Constitution.

Lasso has been polling in second place over the last month, but appears to have lost some momentum and his hopes of being elected would seem to depend on there being a second round of voting on April 11.


Yaku Perez is the candidate of the Movimiento de Unidad Plurinacional Pachakutik (Pachakutic Plurinational Unity Movement). Perez has a reputation as a water defender and was a leader of a regional struggle against mining in Azuay Province. He has called for referendums on further mining and oil extraction in the Amazon region.

Perez won a surprise victory as Prefect (Governor) of Azuay Province in 2019 and is the first Pachakutik candidate to consistently poll at more than 10 percent support for President. He is drawing support from Indigenous, environmentalists and feminist voters. He may be able to slip past Lasso and into a Presidential runoff.

“I am against a big central government and in favor of distributing authority to the local communities,” he says. “This is where the power and money should go.”
“Our traditions and our land has been disrespected for hundreds of years and that condition has been maintained during the Correa and Moreno campaign is for ending that prejudice and making the indigenous population a respected and included part of Ecuadorian society.”
Like Arauz and UNES, Perez and Pachakutik say they oppose neoliberal austerity economics and the deals with the IMF and foreign banks of the west. Unlike Arauz, Perez advocates against a strong central government and for devolving power to the local level. His campaign also emphasizes Indigenous rights and sovereignty and a green approach to economic development that contrasts with both that of Arauz and Lasso.

Perez says he opposes neoliberal economics and capitalist globalization. He has said he would default on “illegitimate debt” to banks. He would conduct an audit of “the foreign debt, the ecological debt, and the historical colonial debt.”

Perez has some issues within his base of support. Two well known Indigenous leaders, Jaime Vargus and Leonid Iza, who played prominent roles in leading mass protests in October of 2019, have been lukewarm to Perez's candidacy. Pachakutik also faces competition from UNES for support of Indigenous voters.

One candidate worth mentioning, mainly due to unpopularity, is the only woman candidate for President, Ximena Peña, of the governing Alianza PAIS party of President Moreno. She has not cracked 2 percent support in polls over the past month. Her unpopularity mirrors that of President Moreno, who a recent poll found had only 7 percent support, with 85 percent opposed. This is the party that dominated Ecuador's elections for 10 years under President Correa, but which Moreno has driven into the ground by betraying the principals it was founded upon. Moreno is now viewed as a traitor to their cause by almost everybody who voted for him.
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Another figure worth mentioning is the banana plantation baron, Alvaro Noboa, who sought to run for President, but whose candidacy was excluded by the electoral authority for not meeting basic qualifications. (If you eat a banana in the U.S., organic or non-organic, there is an excellent chance it was grown on one of Noboa's plantations.) Denied entry as a candidate, Noboa is spending part of his fortune campaigning for voters to write him in, which in Ecuador would count as a nulo votes, in the hopes that a large number of them will deny Arauz a first round victory. Disillusionment with Ecuador's political class is running high. Many Ecuadorians will tell you that they don't support or trust any of the candidates. Noboa and others are seeking to tap into this sentiment.

The corporate media has been running the line that polling indicates that a run-off election for President is almost certain. While that is the most likely outcome, a close reading of the polls and their trends over the last month indicates that an Arauz victory in the first round may be within reach. That is significant, because all the other candidates and parties may unite against Arauz and back his opponent, should there be a runoff.

If there is a run-off, and Perez is not in it, the question of who Perez and Pachakutik will support may be critical. Pachakutik supported Rafael Correa when he was first elected President in 2007, but quickly fell out with his government. Perez actually supported Lasso in the 2017 runoff against Moreno. He has been criticized by leftists, including some in Pachakutik, for being too cozy with bourgeois politicians and the wealthy.
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Pachakutik and Perez never defended UNES' right to participate in elections during the many establishment attempts to first prevent, and then to eliminate their candidacies. This has undoubtedly caused further bad blood between UNES and Pachakutik. There are both substantive and personality differences between them.

It is easy to find a UNES supporter who will tell you that Pachakutik is not really socialist and is corrupt and dishonest. It's also easy to find Pachakutik supporters who dismiss UNES in the same way.

While Arauz and UNES may have the best chance of winning the Presidency, there is anecdotal evidence that winning a UNES majority in Ecuador's 137 seat National Assembly may be much less likely. No other party, or formal alliance of parties, seems to have a chance of winning a majority in the National Assembly, so whichever candidate is elected President will likely face difficulty in moving their legislative agenda. Polling regarding National Assembly contests is scarce.

Caution is warranted when considering polling numbers in Ecuador. Many of the polls are produced by partisan organizations. Also, their ability to effectively poll the poor, the Indigenous, and rural voters are questionable.

It is also worth noting that most polls regarding the Presidential election in Bolivia held last November were dramatically wrong. Most underestimated the support of the leading left party there by a whopping 20 percentage points or more. In Bolivia, most polls had predicted the need for a run-off, just as they are currently doing in Ecuador, but Luis Arce, the left candidate of the Movement Towards Socialism, won in the first round handily.

One difference between Bolivia and Ecuador is that in Bolivia the leading left party is also the leading Indigenous party, while in Ecuador UNES must compete with Pachakutik for the votes of the Indigenous and also for progressive, environmental and left-wing voters.

Memories of the coup in Bolivia in November, 2019, in which President Evo Morales was denied re-election despite winning the vote, remain fresh for many in Ecuador. Memories of the re-run of that election this past November, in which the coup leadership was thrashed by the voters, are very fresh in the minds of Ecuador's oligarchy and wealthy establishment. That, together with Arauz's clear leadership of the polls despite all their efforts to prohibit him and UNES candidates from running, has increased concerns for the potential for election fraud by the government.

The Progressive International and representatives from a number of progressive and left parties and international bodies are sending election observers. [ ]
§Yaku Perea, candidate of the Movimiento de Unidad Plurinacional Pachakutik
by Harvey Goldberg
Tuesday Feb 2nd, 2021 6:13 AM
Perez is the first Indigenous candidate Ecuador to poll over 10 percent support in a Presidential contest. He could slip past Guillermo Lasso and into a runoff.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Lasso, a former bank CEO is the leading candidate of the right and is backed by Ecuador's oligarchy.
Photo credit:
§Ximena Peña candidate for President of Alianza PAIS
by Harvey Goldberg
Tuesday Feb 2nd, 2021 6:13 AM
Peña, the governing parties candidate is only registering two percent support in the polls. Her unpopularity reflects that of current President Lenín Moreno.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
§The rainbow and Pachakutik
by Harvey Goldberg
Tuesday Feb 2nd, 2021 6:13 AM
The rainbow is a symbol of the Pachakutik party and represents Indigenous people and their struggle for their rights.
Source: Wikipedia
§The new UNES alliance has adoted a rainbow butterfly as its symbol
by Harvey Goldberg
Tuesday Feb 2nd, 2021 6:13 AM
It symbolizes inclusion of all Ecuadorians.
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