By John Polga-Hecimovich*
Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso (center, blue shirt) in Cuenca, Ecuador during a campaign rally last month. / Samurai Juan / Flickr / Creative Commons
General elections on Sunday could mark the beginning of the end of an impressive period of stability in Ecuador. Ecuadorians will elect a new congress and a replacement for the powerful and populist Rafael Correa, the longest-serving chief executive in the country’s history. Although the president’s handpicked successor, ex-Vice President Lenín Moreno is leading public opinion polls with 32 percent of likely voters in a crowded eight-candidate field, the chances of him winning a first-round victory outright are slim. Public approval of Correa and his ruling Alianza PAIS (AP) has fallen over the past two years as economic growth has slowed, and the administration is embroiled in allegations of corruption, including those against Jorge Glas Espinel, incumbent vice-president and Moreno’s running mate. Given Ecuador’s two-round presidential system, in which candidates must win by 10 percent or gain 40 percent of the vote, Moreno probably will end up in a run-off election on April 2.
- The other seven candidates are vying for the chance to face Moreno in the second round. Three of them poll between 8 and 21 percent, and the rest appear to have 4 percent or less of the vote. However, rejection of the entire field is high – nearly 12 percent of respondents say they will cast a null vote – and a whopping 35 percent maintain that they are undecided.
Moreno does not appear likely to win the runoff. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that voters will coalesce around an opposition candidate – most likely the CREO movement’s Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former economy minister and banker who ran a distant second to Correa in the 2013 presidential race – who would then defeat Moreno.
- If Moreno and Glas win, they will likely continue Correa’s leftist “Citizens’ Revolution,” especially its improvements to social welfare and emphasis on science and technology, and maintain close ties with China, which has become a key partner in trade and infrastructure investment over the past decade. If the opposition wins, it will try to repeal some of Correa’s onerous taxes, reverse stringent regulation of the media, shrink the size of the state, and seek improved relations with the U.S.
Regardless of who wins, the fragmented support for the candidates and their parties bodes poorly for Ecuador’s political stability, especially in the context of fiscal constraints, a stagnant economy, and burden of recovery from last April’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The so-called muerte cruzada (mutual death) in Article 148 of the country’s 2008 Constitution, moreover, will loom larger under a divided government. This clause gives the president a political “nuclear option” to dissolve the National Assembly in the event of gridlock, triggering new legislative and presidential elections – while the incumbent president is allowed to rule by decree on urgent economic matters in the interim. Correa, who enjoyed majority or near-majority government throughout his unprecedented ten-year presidency, never invoked the muerte cruzada, but his successor will feel stronger temptation to dissolve the Assembly in order to govern unilaterally. Ecuadorians should brace for an end to the country’s unprecedented political stability – and for the specter of Correa, much like the possibility of muerte cruzada, to loom large over the new government’s economic and political decisions.
February 17, 2017
* John Polga-Hecimovich is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Naval Academy. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of or endorsement by the Naval Academy, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
Posted by clalsstaff on February 17, 2017
By Aaron T. Bell*
Photo Credit: Maialisa/Pixabay/Public Domain (modified) and NASA/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Donald Trump’s presumptive nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate for president is raising fears among Latin Americans that the United States could close the door on them, while also provoking self-reflection about the region’s own potential to produce a Donald of its own. Mexico has borne the brunt of Mr. Trump’s hostility for “beating us economically” and “sending people that have a lot of problems.” He has proposed imposing steep tariffs on Mexico, restricting its access to visas, and forcing it to pay for a border wall. Gustavo Madero, former president of the Partido Acción Nacional, denounced him as a “venom-spitting psychopath,” while members of Mexico’s Partido de la Revolución Democrática organized a social media campaign – #MXcontraTrump – to rebut Mr. Trump’s attacks. Mexican President Peña Nieto has pledged to stay out of U.S. electoral politics and work with whomever is elected, but he rejected any notion that Mexico would pay for a wall and compared Mr. Trump’s rhetoric to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini’s. In addition to initiating a public relations campaign to promote the positive effects of U.S.-Mexican relations, Peña Nieto replaced his ambassador to the United States, who was criticized for soft-pedaling Mr. Trump’s comments, with Carlos Sada, an experienced diplomat with a reputation for toughness.
Other nations have joined in the criticism while looking inward as well:
- Latin American critics have compared Trump’s populism to that of Venezuelan Presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, and former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. In Colombia, a member of the Partido Verde described former President Álvaro Uribe’s call for civil resistance to peace negotiations with the FARC as a “Donald Trump-like proposal.” In Lucia, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony accused opposition leader Allen Chastenet of “fast becoming the Donald Trump of St. Lucian politics” for resorting to the “politics of hate and divisiveness.”
- While worrying what might happen if immigrants to the United States are forced to return home, the editorial page of Guatemala’s La Hora has raised the issue of the long-term wisdom of relying on remittances. Meanwhile Argentina’s Nueva Sociedad used attention to Trump’s immigrant comments to analyze restrictive immigration policies within Latin America.
- Some political observers see Mr. Trump’s rise as a warning of the danger of divisive politics. In Colombia’s El Tiempo, Carlos Caballero Argáez wrote that polarization and anti-government discourse in Washington paved the way for a “strong man” like Trump, and cautioned that something similar could happen in Colombia. In El Salvador, Carlos G. Romero in La Prensa Gráfica attributed Trump’s success to his ability to connect with the working class, and warned that his country’s own parties risk facing a Trump lest they make similar connections.
Much of Latin America’s take on Trump mirrors that of opponents in the United States: they recognize that his support reflects the frustration of those who feel cut out from the benefits of globalization and ignored by political elites of all stripes; they reject his anti-immigrant and misogynistic comments; and they fear that someone with seemingly little depth on global politics may soon be the face of a global superpower. While the region hasn’t exactly surged in its appreciation for President Obama’s leadership over the past seven years, Trump’s popularity reminds them that many Americans have less appealing values and principles, which could result in policies harmful to the region. Latin Americans know of what they speak. One need not look too far into the past to see the catastrophic effects of simplistic, nationalistic, strong-man policies on the people of Latin America.
June 21, 2016
* Aaron Bell is an adjunct professor in History and American Studies at American University.
Correction 2016.06.22: Gustavo Madero is the former president of Mexico’s PAN, currently headed by Ricardo Anaya.
Posted by clalsstaff on June 21, 2016
By Brenda Werth
Photo credit: presidencia.gov.ar | Creative Commons
The pope is a populist par excellence – Pope Francis has proven to be no exception – and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) is trying to harness some of his unprecedented approval for her own ends. Since his election in March 2013, supporters of Pope Francis have credited him with changing the tone of the Catholic Church, renewing its relevance, detracting attention away from intractable issues (abortion, gay marriage), decrying capitalism and refocusing efforts on fighting inequality and poverty. “Who am I to judge?” he famously responded when asked to comment on gay priests. And yet, in his previous life as Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, his judgments with regard to gay rights, specifically his strong condemnation of gay marriage, are what then caused the substantial rift between him and CFK’s government. The Argentine government has passed some of the most progressive gay rights legislation in the world, making same-sex marriage legal and awarding full adoption rights to same-sex couples in July 2010. CFK called Bergoglio’s stark opposition medieval. What is surprising, then, is the conciliation that has taken place between the President and Bergoglio as pope. It has taken place over the last year in the form of public rituals and urban iconography, bringing the Pope and CFK together in a symbiotic performance of national identity and Peronist imagery.
Given their past differences, their newly fashioned bond conjures a kinship not based solely on shared political views. CFK has drawn public attention to certain rituals and events that link the two through the construction of familial intimacy. Perhaps the most stunning example of her attempts to incorporate the Pope into the big happy Kirchner family is in her party’s use of a photographic collage juxtaposing Juan Perón, Néstor Kirchner, CFK, and Pope with the caption, “Mirá pibe a dónde llegamos” (Look, kid, how far we’ve come). In May 2013 the collage appeared on a gigantic banner covering the façade of the Central Market in plain view of motorists on the heavily transited Riccheri highway. In June, she broke protocol when she discarded the recommended template and wrote an informal letter to the Pope in honor of the Day of the Pontiff. Discussed at length in the press, the missive was personal and colloquial in tone and closed mysteriously with Fernández urging the Pope to “take care” and “drink mate.” When the President’s first grandchild was born a month later, images of the President accepting the Pope’s gift of baby shoes circulated widely in the press, together with her exclamations of “Look what the Pope got me for Néstor Iván.” And in August, the Perón-Kirchner-Pope collage appeared blazoned on the side of a van deemed the Argentine version of the “Pope mobile,” unveiled by the Kirchner party in support of Frente por la Victoria candidates.
The collage captures perfectly CFK’s campaign to include the Pope in the big happy Kirchner family, but more importantly, it positions CFK herself as a key member of this influential family as she seeks to consolidate not only her own legacy, but also her political future. With Juan Perón positioned top left and Néstor Kirchner top right, the collage resembles a family tree, in which CFK and the Pope are both direct descendents of a conflated Peronist/Kirchner genealogy. Recast as founding fathers in this familial image, Juan Perón and Néstor Kirchner look down at CFK and the Pope from an atemporal, mythological realm, their solemn gaze directed at the newfound alliance between CFK and the Pope, solidified through the handshake between two of the world’s savviest of populists. Dictatorial and democratic regimes alike have manipulated family discourse in Argentina to achieve political means. The almost imperceptible image of the National Congress Building that constitutes the background of this collage is a reminder of what this performative family portrait ultimately seeks to achieve. The Pope’s enthusiasm to play the familial role is unclear; a sign of wariness might be detected in his decision to postpone his first official trip to Argentina until 2016. This date, ostensibly chosen in order for the Pope to participate in the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, perhaps more conveniently allows him to avoid the intense campaign period preceding general elections in 2015.
Posted by clalsstaff on March 10, 2014