Ecuador has seen a prosperity period between 2007 and 2017. The populist leader implied socialist economic policies and economic welfare of the Ecuadorians improved. He created a new constitutional court to create a new constitution. He expanded his powers and caused democratic backslide in Ecuador. Ecuadorians approved every law Correa put before them and approved any amendment to the constitution, even these amendments were to oppress the opposition political parties, independent media and civil organizations. Rafael Correa did not taste defeat from the hands of the opposition. He gave the presidency to the candidate he picked himself: Lenin Moreno. Opposition were not happy with the democratic backsliding in the country but masses still supported Correa’s party Alianza PAIS and Lenin Moreno. Lenin Moreno defended the importance of the institutions rather than the individuals. Moreno initiated a war on corruption in his first term, corruption was the major issue prior to Correa come to power. Correa promised that he would end corruption, he opened new institutions to fight with the corruption but he failed, or he wanted to fail. Oliver Stuenkel (2019) explains the reason behind the decreasing popularity of Lenin Moreno:
“His approval rating sank precipitously from 80 percent in 2018 to 30 percent by mid-2019—largely due to a challenging economic context and his overall performance, which experts, journalists, and former policymakers interviewed characterize as lackluster, indecisive, and aloof. Restoring checks and balances, moving to the center, and overcoming polarization have thus far not paid off politically. Ecuadorans who still admire Correa for helping the poor contend that the current president has betrayed the country.” (Stuenkel, 2019).
The situation Oliver Stuenkel explained is the is the outcome of the u turn Lenin Moreno took. Everyone was thinking he would continue the legacy of Rafael Correa and continue with the socialist economic policies but he moved to the neoliberal policies. Moreno’s betrayal to Correa did not end with policy change. He stripped the vice president Jorge Glas’s position and Jorge Glas got convicted because of the bribes he got from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Moreno did not settle with this and he went after Rafael Correa about corruption. Currently Morena administration is trying to ban Rafael Correa from Ecuador politics. Some say this is another development in Ecuador that is against democracy. In the case of Moreno- Correa rivalry Moreno lost support because he went after a corrupted politician but that politician is Rafael Correa and he still very popular with the people. Another big decision that destroyed Moreno’s popularity is his decision to cut off fuel subsidies and implement policy actions suggested by the IMF.
The reasons behind the rise of Rafael Correa was clear. Ecuadorians were sick of the traditional political parties, inefficient institutions, corruption and economic context. In his 10 year term Correa bullied the opposition and independent media, but nothing caused Correa to lose popularity drastically. The recent developments in Ecuador shows that people take economic situation as the priority. Money helps them to take care of their fundamental needs and masses are okay with a populist leader come and give them economic welfare in exchange for democracy. Other important thing is that current economic crisis in Ecuador is the outcome of Rafael Correa’s economic policies and the global oil prices. Rafael Correa increased the government spending, invested in infrastructure projects. Consequently, Ecuador become another example of Dutch disease. Non-tradable goods sector expanded, so the wages increased. Then tradable goods had to increase their wages as an outcome of this tradable goods sector contracted. Lenin Moreno is accepting the IMF’s terms because Ecuador is in economic crisis and they need IMF’s money. However taking money from IMF is doing the complete opposite thing of Correa’s economic policies.
Economic problems are always a step ahead of democracy problems for the people, to get people talk about democracy, first their belly have to be full. Unfortunately, democracy is a learned need but living and food problems are coming from the DNA of humans.
Stuenkel, O. (2019, July 11). Is Ecuador a Model for Post-Populist Democratic Recovery? Retrieved January 15, 2021, from https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/07/11/is-ecuador-model-for-post-populist-democratic-recovery-pub-79472