The consolidation of the left in the Andes

By Maximiliano Borches (for Safe Democracy)

Maximiliano Borches describes the steps that the new President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, will put into motion: including a national referendum for the creation of a Constituent Assembly, an across the board refusal of the Free Trade Treaty of the Americas, and the reopening of negotiations with oil companies; all the while maintaining the dollar as the national money and continuing to subsidize private Ecuadorian companies. In Borches‘ opinion, Rafael Correa‘s victory will strengthen Hugo Chavez in the region, but will also consolidate the growing power of the leftist block in Latin America.

Maximiliano Borches is a journalist and international analyst. He collaborates with many channels of Latin American press and is the director of the journal Horizonte.

THE INDISPUTABLE WINNER OF THE SECOND ROUND of elections in Ecuador, leftist Rafael Correa, made it to Carondelet Palace through promises to rescue the independence and sovereignty of his country from multilateral credit organizations, and through grand displays of his friendship with Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez.

And even though his party –Country Alliance– did not present any candidates for positions in parliament, his overwhelming victory (with more than 60 percent of the votes, while the opposition, businessman Alvaro Noboa, won only 37 percent) will be enough to call for a popular referendum to establish a Constituent Assembly.

Correa will have to carry out some negotiations with several different parties in the Parliament, but in the end, his goal to set up a Constituent Assembly to carry out sweeping reforms of Ecuador’s Magna Carta, a central issue throughout his campaign, will almost certainly be successful.

The young, new President of 43 years old completed his Master’s in Economics in the United States and Belgium. A perfect Spanish, English, French, and Quechua speaker, he has refused to sign a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Yet it is certain that he will continue to base the Ecuadorian economy around the dollar (despite his fierce opposition to the system) as well as continuing to give subsidies to several private Ecuadorian companies.

The economic changes to be made will be linked to energy issues. Correa plans on renegotiating oil contracts with the multinationals operating within his country with the proposed objective of augmenting state benefits. Correa has also expressed his desire to reintroduce Ecuador into OPEC, as well as negotiating a future entrance into MERCOSUR.

The withdrawal of Venezuela from the Community of Andean Countries nearly dealt the organization a mortal blow.

The economic block –currently made up of Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador– may very well be unsalvageable, especially with Colombia’s recent decision to sign the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, and Peru’s intention to do the same.

However, with the victory of leftist Rafael Correa, the situation seems to have changed, bolstering Hugo Chavez’s position within the community, and raising the possibility for the creation of a new agreement between Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. If such a pact arises, it will not only strengthen the economic block, but will also impose a social and political context to distance the region from the interests of Washington.

Rafael Correa has shown his resolve for independence from the United States by announcing he will not renew the contract; set to expire in 2009, that allows US troops to use a naval base in the Ecuadorian region of Manta. The base serves, in theory, to confront the illegal trafficking of drugs in South America.

With Correa’s victory, Ecuador has joined the growing leftist wave in South America. Without every expressing it openly, the economist used his friendship with Hugo Chavez Frias in order to intelligently and ironically demonstrate the influence that Quito and Caracas could have in the region.

As he has never missed out on the occasion to show his closeness to the Venezuelan President, he has always been sure to distance the Venezuelan model of government from the Ecuadorian, in order to defend himself against the attacks of his opponent.

Now with Daniel Ortega’s victory in Nicaragua, Rafael Correa’s in Ecuador, the reelection of Lula in Brazil, the presence of national executives like Evo Morales in Bolivia, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina, and Michelle Bachelet in Chile, as well as the anticipated third reelection of Hugo Chavez on December 3rd in Venezuela, a leftist block is beginning to institutionalize itself throughout Latin America. This block is leaving behind the model of government of the 1990s, disregarding its institutional framework in favor of writing a new phase of government, being characterized by state intervention into social problems, and putting a strong emphasis on national interests.

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