Ecuador’s Flirtations with Democracy: Correa Does it
Ecuador Today: How Does Correa Do It?
Latin America is watching another of its popular presidents, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, lead his country into the 21st century. The fact that he enjoys such high esteem among the population reflects a string of artful campaign strategies and a largely successful attempt to remove the political constraints to his strategic goals. Not alone in his ambition to grant himself unrestricted power, he joins the ranks of regional leaders like Hugo Chávez, who have embarked on a radical and nationalist leadership effort. Correa has pledged economic relief to the poor, renewed political sovereignty to the indigenous, and regional integration. However, in doing so, civil liberties have at times been treated as privileges rather than guaranteed rights. Correa may appeal to the masses, but after fears of haphazard attempts to experiment with democracy in Ecuador, the country lingers in a political limbo, with many unsure as to which direction it will ultimately go.
In comparison to a number of other Latin American countries, Ecuador boasts a relatively stable, mostly-tranquil history that has been free of Pinochet-like military dictatorships, Batista-like presidential coups, and Salvadoran-like civil wars. However, such comparative stability cannot hide the formidable obstacles that face Ecuador today. In the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which rates countries on a ten-point scale (10 being the least corrupt) according to civilian perceptions, Ecuador received a low 2.2, denoting “rampant corruption.” Furthermore, in recent months under the rule of democratically-elected President Rafael Correa, Ecuador has been accused of harboring terrorists operating against Colombia, threatening to shut down the independent TV station Teleamazonas, and seizing oil fields owned by the Anglo-French company Perenco Corp. Whether or not these actions will directly effect the future of Ecuador’s democratic institutions remains to be seen; however, President Correa’s continuous drift to the left is sure to ignite significant instability, both domestically and in the Andean region.