To ingratiate himself to the United States, Moreno ejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy, arrested computer programmer and privacy activist Ola Bini on a concocted case, and launched a frontal attack against the Correistas. The political organisation of the Correistas was broken up, its leaders arrested, and any attempt to regroup for elections denied. Once such as example is the Social Compromise Force or Fuerza Compromiso Social platform, which the Correistas used to run for local elections in 2019; this platform was then banned in 2020. A February 2018 referendum was barrelled through the country, allowing the government to destroy the democratic structures of the National Electoral Council (CNE), the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Council, the attorney general, the comptroller general, and others. Democracy was hollowed out.
A month before the 7 February 2021 presidential election, it appeared clear that in a fair election the candidate of the left, Andrés Arauz Galarza, would prevail. A range of pollsters suggested that Arauz would win in the first round with over the threshold of 40%. Arauz (age 35) is an attractive candidate with not a whiff of corruption or incompetence around him for his decade of service in the Central Bank and as a minister in the last two turbulent years of Correa’s government. When Correa left office, Arauz went to Mexico to pursue a PhD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The oligarchy has used every means to block his victory.
On 14 January, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) provided Ecuador with a loan of $2.8 billion to be used to pay off Ecuador’s debt to China and to ensure that Ecuador pledge to break commercial ties with China. Knowing that Arauz might win, the US and the oligarchy of Ecuador decided to tie the Andean country to an arrangement that could suffocate any progressive government. Formed in 2018, the DFC developed a project called América Crece or ‘Growth in the Americas’, whose entire policy framework aims to edge out Chinese business from the American hemisphere. Quito has since signed up for Washington’s ‘Clean Network’, a US State Department project to force countries to build telecommunications networks without a Chinese telecom provider involved in them. This particularly applies to the high-speed fifth generation (5G) networks. Ecuador joined the Clean Network in November 2020, which opened the door for the DFC loan.
Correa drew in $5 billion from Chinese banks to enhance Ecuador’s infrastructure (particularly for the construction of hydroelectric dams); Ecuador’s total external debt is $52 billion. Moreno and the United States have painted the Chinese funds as a ‘debt trap’, although there is no evidence that the Chinese banks have been anything but accommodating. Over the last six months of 2020, Chinese banks have been willing to put loan payments on hold until 2022 (this includes a delay on the repayment of the $474 million loan to the Export-Import Bank of China and the $417 million loan to the China Development Bank). Ecuador’s Finance Ministry says that, for now, the plan is for repayment to start in March 2022 and to end by 2029. Moreno took to Twitter to announce these two delays. There were no aggressive measures taken by these two banks nor from any other Chinese financial entity.
Essentially, the DFC loan attempts to sabotage an Arauz presidency. This US-imposed conflict against China in Latin America is part of a broader assault. On 30 January, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research held a seminar alongside Instituto Simón Bolívar, ALBA Social Movimientos, and the No Cold War platform to reflect on the Latin American battlefield of this hybrid war.
The speakers included Alicia Castro (Argentina), Eduardo Regaldo Florido (Cuba), João Pedro Stedile (Brazil), Ricardo Menéndez (Venezuela), Monica Bruckmann (Peru/Brazil), Ambassador Li Baorong (China), and Fernando Haddad (Brazil).
Despite the hollowing out of democracy, elections remain one front in the political contest, and in that contest, the left fights to summon a democratic spirit. Perhaps poetry is the best way to articulate the texture of this conflict. Out of Ecuador’s rich tradition of emancipatory thinking came the writer and communist Jorge Enrique Adoum. Here’s a part of his powerful poem, Fugaz retorno (‘Fleeting Return’):
And we ran, like two runaways,
to the hard shore where stars
came apart. Fishermen told us
of successive victories in nearby provinces.
And our feet got wet with a spray of dawn,
full of roots that were ours and the world’s.
‘When is happiness?’, the poet asks. Tomorrow. Are we not all in search of tomorrow?