U.S. hands off Ecuador!

A careful count of votes in the Ecuadorian elections of Feb. 19 showed that Lenin Moreno, the presidential candidate of the current governing party, Alianza Pais, came within a hair of victory on the first round, finishing way ahead of the other seven candidates.

Since the election for president will now go to a second round on April 2, there remains the likelihood of active intervention by U.S. and European Union imperialism to prevent a victory by Moreno, the more progressive candidate. Imperialist meddling and subversion to support reactionary forces in Latin America have already resulted in a close electoral victory in Argentina and a parliamentary coup in Brazil. They are also maneuvering to overthrow Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, in addition to the Alianza Pais government in Ecuador.

Rafael Correa, who has been president of Ecuador for three terms, is backing Moreno, who got 39.4 percent of the vote. Moreno ran more than 11 points ahead of banker Guillermo Lasso, the main candidate of Ecuadorian big capital and imperialism, who received 28.1 percent. The Ecuadorian neo-liberals were split, with a second pro-imperialist candidate getting about 16 percent of the vote.

Moreno has paraplegia and has been a longtime advocate for people with disabilities.

According to Ecuador’s election law, to win in the first round a candidate must either get more than 50 percent of the vote or receive 40 percent of the vote and be 10 percent ahead of the runner-up. So Moreno fell short by very little. In elections for the National Assembly, however, Alianza Pais won nearly 60 percent of the seats, a clear victory.

While it might appear that the large margin separating Moreno from Lasso would give him an easy victory in the second round, there is no guarantee. U.S. imperialism, under Donald Trump just as under Barack Obama, is hell-bent on thwarting any moves by countries south of the border toward sovereignty and economic independence. Especially since Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, Washington has treated all progressive moves in those countries as threatening U.S. imperialism’s economic and strategic interests.

Ecuadorians know that the Trump administration would like to see a White House puppet in Quito who would rip up Rafael Correa’s progressive heritage. In his three terms, Correa developed an international policy of affirmation of national sovereignty, breaking the historical submission by the Ecuadorian ruling class to the demands of Washington. This included kicking out the U.S. military base in Manta.

Even if Lenin Moreno is elected, as many still expect, the new government will face major problems in an unfavorable political and economic climate.

Like other countries in South America that moved in a progressive direction, Ecuador under Correa was able to use the funds it earned through high prices of raw materials in the first decade of the 21st century to pay for social programs that benefited the poorest of its residents.

With the fall in prices for these commodities on world markets, it has become more difficult for progressive governments to fund these programs and maintain a stable economy, leaving them more susceptible to imperialist subversion. Of all the countries south of the U.S. border, only Cuba has carried out a socialist revolution that put the state and the economy firmly in the hands of the workers and farmers.

Anti-imperialists inside the United States should oppose any U.S. interference in the Ecuadorian presidential election or its aftermath, and support the defeat of Lasso and his rich backers in Ecuador who want to grow even richer by serving world imperialism.

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