The Ecuadorian elections on Sunday pit Rafael Correa's successor Andrés Arauz against the businessman and banker Guillermo Lasso, representative of the Ecuadorian capitalist oligarchy. The polls put Arauz ahead of Lasso, but not by enough of a margin to avoid a second round of voting.
The masses have interpreted the presidential elections as an opportunity to get rid of the murderous and pro-imperialist government of Lenin Moreno, whose hands are stained by the repression of the October 2019 insurrection against his IMF-endorsed package of anti-worker measures. Ximena Peña, the Alianza País candidate, Moreno's party, only has 0.8-1.5 percent in the polls.
It is important to point out that no open candidate of the traditional Ecuadorian capitalist oligarchy has been able to win a single presidential election since the insurrection of 2000 in a country that has lived through 10 years of convulsions and uprisings as the broad working-class and peasant masses search for a solution to their problems.
Lasso, who has already lost two presidential elections, is very likely to add a third defeat to his record. A member of Opus Dei, minister of economy responsible for the IMF package of the Jamil Mahuad government in 1999, banker and businessman, there could not be a candidate who more faithfully represents the rancid Ecuadorian oligarchy based in Guayaquil, with its heart in Washington. His heroes are Margaret Thatcher and José María Aznar.
In these elections, the ruling class (totally subservient to US imperialism) used judicial mechanisms to prevent the candidacy of ex-president Rafael Correa, forcing his political movement to present Arauz, who was a minister under Correa, as a candidate. In addition, the Correa supporters' electoral slate, Fuerza Compromiso Social, had its registration withdrawn, forcing the creation of the Unión Nueva Esperanza (UNES). To this legal offensive are added false accusations of all kinds in the capitalist-owned mainstream media outlets, including that of an alleged financing of Arauz's campaign by the Colombian ELN. But it seems that neither legal manoeuvring nor journalistic manipulation will be able to stop the will of the workers and peasants to once again defeat the oligarchy in these elections.
What is most likely is that Arauz's advantage will not be enough to win the presidential election outright in the first round, and the UNES candidate will face Lasso in a second round. Yaku Perez, Pachakutik's candidate, has declared that he will support Lasso in the second round, just as they did in 2017 in the second round between Lasso and Lenín Moreno. On that occasion, the Pachakutik candidate scandalously said "a banker is preferable to a dictatorship." The Pachakutik movement, which according to polls would win between 10 and 15 percent of the votes, under the guise of defending indigenous rights, openly supports the oligarchic right. But in 2017, Pérez's support for the banker Lasso did not prevent the victory in the second round of Lenín Moreno, who at that time was the Correista candidate.
The lessons of October
Arauz's possible victory will represent a new attempt by the Ecuadorian masses to turn the country's politics in their favour. The main weakness of Correísmo (the politics of Rafael Correa which is now part of the new Progressive International) is its insistence that the problems afflicting the working masses are due to "neoliberalism" and corruption, without questioning the very capitalist system that sustains both of these things.
An Arauz government and UNES in the midst of a tremendous health crisis and a fierce economic recession will be a learning experience for the masses. Bankers, businessmen and landowners are not going to let him govern freely. The campaign to harass and demolish Arauz has already started before the elections. Arauz has promised to provide aid of $1,000 to one million poorer families affected by the pandemic and to reverse Moreno's policy of cuts against the workers and poor. He intends to finance his plans with an expansive fiscal policy and a one-off 2 percent tax on those with fortunes over $1 million.
However, Arauz would inherit almost bankrupt state finances, a brutal economic recession and a pact with the IMF (which it has promised to renegotiate), that forces the country to carry out austerity policies against workers. While Correa was in power he benefited from the high prices of raw materials that produced GDP growth rates of around five percent annually between 2011 and 2015. Arauz would face a country hit by a GDP drop of between eight and nine percent in 2020. The room for manoeuvre available to him is therefore very narrow. Within the limits of capitalism in crisis, and dominated by imperialism, he will be unable to do much.
The task of Marxists is to accompany the masses in their experience, always pointing out the most important lesson of the last 20 years of struggle in Ecuador: it is not enough to change the government, but we must overthrow the capitalist system, expropriate the oligarchy and drive out imperialism to create the necessary conditions to solve the urgent problems of the masses.
Bread, work, land and dignity will only be possible if the workers and peasants, who have shown so many examples of courage and heroism, take power into their own hands. In the October insurrection, that goal was within reach. The government of Lenín Moreno fled Quito in a rush, repression could not stop the momentum of popular rage. Sadly, the leadership fell short and betrayed the movement just when victory was possible. The essential prerequisite for moving forward is to learn the lessons of October and to begin, patiently, the task of building the revolutionary leadership deserved by the youth, women, workers and peasants who gave their all for a better life.