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Ecuador

M. Spector
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M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005
Ecuador referendum endorses new socialist constitution
Monday September 29 2008
quote:Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, has won a referendum on a new constitution that will implement leftist reforms, including increased state control over monetary and oil policy.

Preliminary results showed 65% approval, with almost half of the votes counted. An opposition leader told Reuters that Correa had won.

Correa is an ally of the socialist regimes in Venezuela and Bolivia, although his reforms are less radical than those of Hugo Chбvez or Evo Morales.

The new constitution contains a number of provisions aimed at the 38% of Ecuadorians who live below the poverty line. It guarantees free education up to and including university, increased spending on health, low-interest micro-loans, building materials for first-time homeowners and free seeds for growing crops.

Correa is also granted greater control over the central bank and army, and the right to stand for two more consecutive terms.

quote: The new constitution received 64.02 percent "yes" votes, with nearly 92 percent votes counted, Ecuador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) said in a communique Monday.

Only two of the country's 24 provinces had turned in "no" votes, the communique added.

During a meeting with foreign media at the government's headquarters in Carondelet Palace, Correa said the new constitution will give political stability to Ecuador, eradicate neo-liberalism and set the foundation for socialism in the country.

"There will be a change in the economical and political models in the country," he said.

The new constitution comes into force next February. - Xinhua


Fidel
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M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005
Ecuadorian President Comes Into Conflict with Both Right and Left
by Daniel Denvir, September 25, 2008
quote:As Ecuadorians prepare to vote on a proposed constitution this Sunday, President Rafael Correa is coming into conflict not only with the conservative elite but also with the Left, including rebellious members of his own party. While social movements are by and large hailing the constitution as progressive, indigenous and other activists are concerned about what they see as Correa's increasing moves to the Right.

But coverage of Ecuador's president in the U.S. corporate media has primarily relied on caricature and political simplification, leaving most US readers the assumption that Correa is a "Leftist." He is thus usually vilified by U.S. conservatives and deified by progressives. This is true whether you're reading The Associated Press referring to Correa as a "socialist" or The New York Times facilely miming Colombian charges of FARC ties. The situation in Ecuador is far more complicated.

Monica Chuji, a former Assembly Member from Correa's Alianza Paнs party, recently disaffiliated from the party, angry over Correa's support for large scale mining and attacks on the indigenous movement. Correa recently said that "infantile leftism, environmentalism and indigenism" pose the "greatest threat" to Ecuador's progress.

Correa and supporters of the proposed constitution are framing the vote as a stark choice between change towards a brighter future and a return to a past governed by a corrupt oligarchy. Concretely, backers point to the proposed magna carta's establishment of free access to education and healthcare, universal social security, and support for public and community media.

Ecuadorians (like Americans) want to believe that change is coming. Over the past 10 years, three presidents have been ousted by popular and overwhelmingly peaceful mobilizations against corruption and neoliberal economic reforms. People are overwhelmingly sick of the old guard elite (generally referred to as the oligarchy). Correa promises to end to the "long night of neoliberalism," an era of deregulation and privatization that culminated in the 1998 banking crisis when Ecuadorian deposit holders lost $8 billion.

A number of moves have contributed to Correa's sky-high approval ratings. He recently seized the property of the Grupo Isaнas, whose owners ran one of the banks responsible for the 1999-2000 crisis. He has also acceded to popular demands and is closing the US military base in the coastal city of Manta when the contract expires in November 2009. And perhaps most importantly, he has increased "solidarity bonuses" for the poor urban and farmers.

The Right, on the other hand, has been trying to frame the debate around the issues of abortion and gay rights—sound familiar? While the abortion issue is a red herring—the new constitution retains the not too progressive status quo, allowing for "therapeutic" abortion to save the mother's life—there are significant advances for GLBT rights, namely the historic legalization of safe sex civil unions. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would also be prohibited….

Environmentalists and the CONAIE are also pleased that the proposed constitution would recognize nature as a legal subject of rights and guarantees the right to water as a fundamental human right. But they worry that Correa, who successfully blocked a provision that would have given local communities veto power over mining and oil projects, is planning to pay the "social debt" through ecologically destructive mining and oil policies. This would pit the beneficiaries of social services against rural community members resisting resource-extraction projects….

The Left and social movements are in an awkward situation, defending the Constitution against the Right while opposing many of Correa's policies. A Leftist academic who publicly supports the government surprised me last week when he said that he hopes the constitution doesn't win "by too much." The Left is unsure whether Correa will credit social movements for a referendum victory or whether it will reinforce his attitude that he is the leader of a one man movement.


M. Spector
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M. Spector
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M. Spector, a year ago, wrote:

As Ecuadorians prepare to vote on a proposed constitution this Sunday, President Rafael Correa is coming into conflict not only with the conservative elite but also with the Left, including rebellious members of his own party. While social movements are by and large hailing the constitution as progressive, indigenous and other activists are concerned about what they see as Correa's increasing moves to the Right....

Environmentalists and the CONAIE are also pleased that the proposed constitution would recognize nature as a legal subject of rights and guarantees the right to water as a fundamental human right. But they worry that Correa, who successfully blocked a provision that would have given local communities veto power over mining and oil projects, is planning to pay the "social debt" through ecologically destructive mining and oil policies. This would pit the beneficiaries of social services against rural community members resisting resource-extraction projects….

In the past year since the above was written, Corrrea has come under increasing attack from the left social movements in Ecuador for his pro-mining-company positions.

Quote:
...although the passing of the new constitution represented a moment of unity between Ecuador's popular movements and the electoral left, these two entities have clashed recently over the question of environmental protection-showing that they are hardly synonymous and sometimes not even allies. After the Constitution was ratified, Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa, who was instrumental in establishing the Constitutional Assembly, began a public campaign to pass legislation that would expand the operations of gold-, silver-, and copper-mining corporations in the Amazon and the southern highlands around Cuenca, as well as initiate new mining sites in the northern highlands. Moving away from the firm anti-neoliberal rhetoric he used on the 2006 campaign trail, Correa described his vision of a socially responsible mining sector whose profits would be harnessed to break the country's dependence on extractive industry....

In January, the Ecuadoran congress approved Correa's plan, passing the Mining Law to allow Canadian mining corporations, including Kinross Gold, Iamgold, and Corriente Resources, to begin operations. Specific articles in the Mining Law have come under intense scrutiny by the anti-mining opposition; for example, Article 2 ("Applications") mandates the participation of both private and public figures in policy discussions but does not include community members who will be affected by mining. Moreover, Article 15 ("Public Utility") declares mining a public activity, which some members of the opposition argue can be used to expropriate indigenous land for a supposed collective good. Article 16 ("State Dominion Over Mines and Oil Fields") allows the government alone to define "national interest," which critics believe will focus solely on income. And Article 28 ("Prospecting Freedoms") allows any business to "liberally prospect for mineral substances" on community and indigenous land.

After the Mining Law passed, social movements, led primarily by indigenous nationalities throughout the country, mobilized in response, claiming that the law violates the new Constitution's environmental provisions-especially those that declare access to clean drinking water and access to a healthy environment to be inviolable human rights, as well as those that ascribe to the environment itself the right to be respected, sustainably maintained, and regenerated. Critics further argue that the track record of Ecuadoran mining demonstrates that the industry's practices fundamentally conflict with these constitutionally protected rights.

While many Ecuadoran groups have worked for years at the local level either to oppose particular mining projects or to lobby for environmental improvements or cleanup of specific mining sites, a national opposition movement-including indigenous, urban, environmental, Afro-Ecuadoran, and humanitarian groups - with the more ambitious goal of banning large-scale metal mining was first built after Correa's election. The Mining Law thus provided a focal point around which this movement's nationwide efforts have coalesced.

Several protests have demonstrated the cross-national and cross-organizational unity against the Mining Law and the Canada-based transnational mining corporations. On November 10, 2008, about 200 activists from throughout the country, including executive members of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), marched on the Canadian Embassy in Quito, where they declared Canadian miners "unwelcome" in Ecuador. A week later, thousands throughout Ecuador protested the Mining Law, then still pending, in marches led by the Unified Community Water Systems of Azuay (UNAGUAS) and the Federation of Campesino Organizations.

It was not until the passage of the Mining Law, however, that protests and debate became widespread. January 12, the day the law was passed by Congress, was designated by the anti-mining movement as the Day of Mobilization for Life; thousands mobilized that day throughout Ecuador. About 4,000 indigenous people blockaded the Latacunga-Ambato highway in the south, and tens of thousands mobilized in Quito, Cuenca, the Amazon, and on the coast. Some protest leaders were detained and charged with terrorism; one Amazonian leader disappeared only to reappear later with a gunshot wound in his head. Police officers were also wounded.

In response, Correa again called those who oppose his mining law "childish," "nobodies," and "allies of the right." "It is absurd that some want to force us to remain like beggars sitting atop a bag of gold," he said in a January 24 radio address, promising to move forward with the mining plan.

These accusations deepened the rift between Correa and the social movements that supported the Ecuadoran constitution and are now increasingly disillusioned with the possibility that Correa represents a continuation of neoliberal policy.

Correa vs. Social Movements: Showdown in Ecuador


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

Quote:
The problem is open air mining, on which Correa's administration has made a major bet. Alberto Acosta, founder of the Country Alliance (Alianza País) - the movement that brought Correa to the presidency - and ex-president of the Constitutional Assembly, is raising a discussion very close to that of the indigenous movements: "The mining law, approved after the constitution, is putting the Magna Carta in danger. This is the root of the problem. Why is this? Without a doubt it is the incoherent aspects of the government that clearly continue to inspire neoliberal policies, that continue to represent the interests of the most traditional economic groups."

Acosta maintains that the progressive South America governments "have not discussed nor have they put into question the extractionist model," not even the "most advanced" countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. In his opinion, the firm belief that "the practice of natural resource extraction will show us the road to development" has up until now impeded the ability to get past this model and maybe even find "a new form of insertion into the international market."

A second problem is Correa himself. Acosta comments that Correa recently entered into political life in 2005, when in Ecuador, the indigenous uprisings have been ongoing since 1990. He tends to think in personal terms: "He is assuming the role of the bearer of collective political will and he doesn't realize that in large part the earlier historic process is the explanation for the positive results of Correa and Alianza País." The absence of an organic structure, movement, or party, according to Acosta, creates a situation in which Correa does not understand "that he is there, in the presidency, thanks to the great effort made by the Ecuadorian society."

The economist Pablo Dávalos agrees with this idea but he also believes that Correa's government continues to be a neoliberal one. Today, capital needs to "link with territories at the vortex of financial speculation" as a way of moving beyond the crisis. Meanwhile, the movements have declared the Amazonian region in the south, including Zamora and Morona, mining-free territories. A collision with multinational mining companies seems inevitable.

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