Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa won re-election to a third term on Feb. 17. Preliminary results show him winning by more than 56 percent, surpassing the 24 percent of votes for his closest rival, former banker Guillermo Lasso. (Houston Chronicle, Feb. 17)
Although Correa makes no claims to be a socialist, his six years of progressive reforms have won substantial gains for the poor in a country of 15.6 million people, and earned him the bitter hatred of the right-wing sectors of Wall Street and the U.S. government.
Correa’s reforms include many new schools and health clinics in towns and villages throughout the country; low-cost or free education and free school uniforms; minimum wage increases above the rate of inflation; subsidized mortgages; and monthly cash transfers to the country’s 2 million poorest people, particularly single mothers and the elderly poor. (The Economist, Feb. 9)
The number of Ecuadorians living in poverty has declined by more than 8 percent since 2007. In 2000, the poverty rate in Ecuador was 64 percent. It is now 27 percent. The expected life span has risen to 76 years. In the past four years, 95,400 jobs have been created.
The Correa government’s actions have created bitter enemies on Wall Street. Wall Street Journal editor Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote an article titled “Ecuador’s Permanent Mob-Rule Campaign,” which appeared in the Feb. 11 issue. In it, she attacks Correa for enacting popular reforms without paying proper attention to so-called “checks and balances.”
O’Grady attacked Correa’s description of a reactionary commentator as a “big fake, a swine, a professional defamer, and a bank employee.” No doubt it was the pejorative “bank employee” label that earned the wrath of this mouthpiece for Wall Street.
It is not just the economic reforms that have earned the imperialists’ bitter hatred of the Correa government. Ecuador joined the Bolivarian Alliance of Our Americas (ALBA), an association of progressive Latin American countries that include Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and others.
Ecuador defaulted on $3.2 billion in loans to foreign banks in 2008. According to The Economist article, Correa asserted, “Ecuador is no longer for sale. The country of despair has become one of hope.”
In 2010, the Ecuadorian national police tried to oust Correa in a coup attempt that cost the life of one of his supporters. However, the right-wing’s attack was foiled when thousands of Correa supporters flooded the streets and forced the military to rescue the president.
The following year, Ecuador expelled U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges after WikiLeaks documents showed that the U.S. had extensive internal contacts with the Ecuador national police.
Last year, Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum in its London Embassy. The U.S. government had targeted Assange and WikiLeaks after thousands of secret documents published on that website revealed extensive U.S. war crimes.
As Wall Street fumes, the masses of Ecuador stand by the president and his popular program.