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David Villamar (Wikimedia Commons: Gabriela Zurita Camacho)

Lessons, dangers and dilemmas for Correismo after Ecuador’s election

An interview with David Villamar

On April 11, the second round of Ecuador’s presidential election saw the rightwing candidate Guillermo Lasso prevail by 52.4% to 47.6% over his left wing opponent Andres Arauz. I interviewed Quito-based economist David Villamar who provided a probing analysis of the election. —Joe Emersberger

Joe Emersberger: In 2017, Moreno ran as a loyalist of former President Rafael Correa (2007-17), but once in office, Moreno immediately ditched the left wing campaign platform that he used to win and adopted rightwing polices of his opponent (Lasso). Please describe the ways the electoral playing field was tilted against Andres Arauz over the past 4 years under outgoing President Moreno (who did not run for re-election).

David Villamar: The Citizens Revolution, the movement led by Rafael Correa, is the only threat to the status quo that arose in Ecuador since the return of democracy in 1979. All other governments had been subservient to elites. Rafael Correa’s government [2007-17] changed that completely. It rebuilt a state that had been all but absent. It gave meaning to the presence of the state, to the need for public policies that, due to their inefficiencies or non-existence, were not understood. Correa gave real content to social policy: the construction of public works such as hospitals, schools, roads, hydroelectric plants and other megaprojects–things that had not been built in the past or done in a marginal way. Strength was given to a state that had traditionally been weak, so weak that in the decade before Correa, 3 presidents were ousted simply by large protests. Obviously Correa’s project required a higher collection of taxes, including corporate income tax. This changed power relations. Elites lost considerable control over the state, and were being forced to pay taxes, and comply with other legal obligations. No other president dared to confront the elites or their media outlets. They felt threatened and came to see Correa and the Citizens Revolution movement as Satan, a monster that had to be defeated to regain their Paradise Lost. Those are the reasons for the virulence of elite hatred of Correa, and this deepened after the betrayal of Lenin Moreno. That initiated a process of persecution and defamation of the Citizens Revolution.

The Citizens Revolution gave Ecuador a new Constitution through a democratic and participatory process that it had never seen before. First there was a referendum to see if voters wanted a new constitution, then the election of constituent assembly members, and finally a vote to ratify the new constitution that had been written by the constituent assembly. That changed the structure of the state, gave it greater influence over the economy, and increased the importance of public services. The private media depicted all that as the creation of a “bloated state”, but it simply restored the state to what it had been during the 60s and 70s–a period known of so-called developmentalism, when the state was active but not destructive towards private enterprise.

So during the Moreno government the vilification of this came in stages. First came a wave of allegations from Moreno and his cabinet that everything built under Correa was overpriced. The cost estimates of alleged corruption and cost overruns descended into total farce. One day they said that the losses from corruption were $3 billion. The following month it was $10 billion. Then $30 billion. The figure they finally landed on was $70 billion. To even claim that a government that with an annual budget of $30 billion had stolen $30 billion in 10 years was absurd on its face. There were even people who alleged that corruption losses reached $140 billion. It was ridiculous.

Then they began to embellish the figures with scandals. Take the case of a refinery (the famous Refinería del Pacifico) whose construction was only initiated under Correa. Only roads that would lead to the refinery and other basic infrastructure were completed, along with various studies that were necessary before actual work could begin. All of this properly audited at the time. But by stripping out all those facts, the media presented Ecuadorians with a story that claimed “$1.6 billion for a flat fieldl!” Photos of the flat empty land were shown and it was asked “How could this cost $1.6 billion?”. So these kinds of stories cemented the idea, especially in those who already disliked Correa, that his government was very corrupt.

Then came persecution. It started very early with Jorge Glas, Moreno’s Vice President who was elected in 2017. They accused Glas over money that had been unjustifiably acquired by an uncle of his, [allegedly] from a Brazilian company that had contracts with Ecuador’s government, Odebrecht. Glas was placed in pretrial detention in 2017. What followed was practically a summary trial of a few months. Odebrecht people were brought in only to testify against Glas and then sent him back to Brazil without allowing cross-examination. And on that basis, Glas was sentenced to years in prison for illicit association.

About a year and a half later, the misnamed “bribery trial” began. They pressured a former Correa collaborator (Pamela Martínez) to accuse him. Evidence was fabricated–an infamous notebook. That notebook was written by Martínez during an hour-long Quito-Guayaquil flight months after the authorities began to pressure her. The notebook was written in the present tense (and alluded to events that happened in 2014, when Correa was in office) but it was actually written in 2018. Prosecutors used “experts” with very dubious credentials. To top off the farce, Correa was condemned for having “psychic influence” over officials. In the written judgement, the part pertinent to Correa only talks about the forged notebook and everything else is testimony after testimony. There was no evidence. The final appeal of the judgement, which is called cassation, was so rushed that it was the shortest in history. I researched it. This appeal took between 11-24 days when for similar cases it has lasted for months and even years. It was rushed to ensure that Correa’s conviction was finalized in time to prevent him from running as Andres Arauz’s running mate in February of 2021 [when the first round of the election for president and Vice President was held].

That’s how what many of us call Lawfare escalated under Moreno. Then they wanted to argue that if Correa could not participate in the election then neither could Andres Arauz. You had an army of supposedly serious constitutionalists in Ecuador–all of them from the right (Ramiro García, Ismael Quintana, Rafael Oyarte)–three supposedly great legal minds inventing on a daily some argument to prevent the ticket of Arauz / Rabascall (who replaced Correa) from getting on the ballot. Cruder things happened, like when the former auditor general Pablo Celi (who is now imprisoned over alleged corruption) gave the electoral council an order to eliminate the Fuerza Compromiso Social party that allowed correístas to join (because under Moreno, Correísmo was never allowed to register its own party). They reached that level of arbitrariness. Legal challenge after challenge tried to prevent the registration of Arauz. The first round was in February, but the participation of the Arauz / Rabascall ticket was not confirmed until December. That kind of thing had not been seen since the return to democracy in 1979.

JE: There were also short term problems, during the campaign, that were related to the tilted playing field. How much limited media time should Arauz spend defending Correa’s vilified government instead of talking about proposals for dealing with Ecuador’s crisis today? You have a critique of how the short term problems were handled.

DV: I think Arauz’s strategy in the first round was very effective, very smart, because it initially proposed the Arauz / Correa ticket. The image of Arauz was placed next to Correa’s for as long as possible. That directed the vote of Correa’s base towards Arauz, who was relatively unknown. Arauz was a minister during Correa’s last years in office years, minister of human talent and culture, but much less in the spotlight than other ministers. That contrasted a bit with other electoral tactics where time constraints that you mentioned played a role. Andrés was a young candidate with little experience dealing with the opposition media.

They attacked Andrés with everything they could. On ECUAVISA [a private network], for example, Lenin Artieda on more than one occasion presented Andrés as the candidate for “de-dollarization”. [Ecuador adopted the U.S. dollar as its currency in 2000.] De-dollarization is a fear that has been created–the big fear for Ecuadorians because of this idea that dollarization gave us monetary and price stability. When somebody tells you “this guy opposes dollarization” then it scares people. And of course Arauz had little time to refute such attacks. They repeatedly attacked his intellectual, academic and professional qualifications. They called him the “Lelo”[dumb guy]. They called him a “de-dollarizer” and said that he was going to “lead us to be like Venezuela.” Those were the main attacks during the first round. Inexperience in responding hurt him but so did the fact that he was the candidate everyone attacked. That complicated short term tactics.

During the second round things got worse. There were errors in the campaign strategy. On social media I pointed out at least three errors.

One was a slow start. Arauz won the first round (on February 2) but from that point on the campaign cooled down because it was not known whether Yaku Pérez or Guillermo Lasso would be his opponent. Attention was diverted towards the very tight race for second place. After a long run, a person who stops and cools down will sometimes get leg cramps. I think something like that happened with Arauz’s campaign.

Lasso, on the other hand, changed his entire team of advisers after the first round. I understand he hired advisers to Xavier Hervas, who finished a surprisingly strong fourth in the first round by reaching young people on platforms such as TikTok. Lasso also hired Jaime Duran Barba, a long-time strategist in Ecuadorian elections. Jaime Duran Barba is known for creating highly effective last minute strategies to pulverize an opponent and generate a surprise win. He brought Mauricio Macri to the presidency of Argentina. Duran Barba deployed strategies that I think Arauz’s side unwisely dismissed because at first they seemed like stupid antics. They put Lasso in a pink shirt and red shoes; a guy who has been very formal all his life. That generated a buzz around Lasso as suddenly everyone saw his antics on Tiktok where serious politics isn’t what counts. Some of us warned that this was happening, but action was not taken in time. That impacted undecided voters. What started out as twenty point lead for Arauz began diminishing.

Another error occurred in the mandatory debate between Arauz and Lasso. It marked a turning point. If you watch the debate, Andrés Arauz won, especially the first part. And in the rest he remained solid. But Arauz came to the debate to convey his message regardless of what his rival said. Lasso did the same. The difference is that Arauz’s message focused on his policy proposals, while Lasso’s message was “Andres, don’t lie again.” He repeated it no less than 10 times.

JE: It was planned in order to produce a hashtag to spread though social media after the debate.

DV: Exactly. Lasso didn’t come to win the debate but to place a time bomb that would later explode against Arauz on social media. It’s notable that every time Lasso used that “Andres, don’t lie again” catchphrase, he didn’t say it to respond to lies, but to truths. Arauz confronted Lasso by telling him that he supported Moreno’s laws. That was true. Arauz told him that Lasso’s party (CREO) voted in favor of a tax that Lasso later said he would eliminate. That was true. But thanks to social media the cynical “Andres don’t lie again” refrain proved to be a masterful trick. Arauz made the mistake of ignoring it during the debate. Andres’s lack of experience for this type of combat showed there. This was a dirty fight. Andrés is an excellent debater, but this was mudslinging that Arauz was not used to confronting.

After the debate, attacks on Arauz came with sniper precision. First the hashtag “Andrés don’t lie again.” Then a rotten attack (which marked the peak of the dirty campaign) on Arauz’s professional credentials.

At the age of 20, Arauz won a public contest (in 2006, before Correa came to power) to be an analyst at the Central Bank. They turned that amazing achievement into something shady. It was insinuated that the contest had been rigged. They’d ask “how does a 20-year-old boy who had no degree [which was false] or experience win that contest?”

They also tarnished Arauz’s image by distorting and falsifying the facts about periods of unpaid leave that Andrés requested while he was with the Central Bank. He took these during Correa’s time in office to accept promotions within Correa’s government which is perfectly legal. And when the Correa government ended, he took unpaid leave from the bank to work on his doctorate in Mexico. This was twisted in such a Machiavellian way by Lasso’s campaign that they convinced many people that Andres had been paid by the Central Bank without working–an utter lie. When he was officially dismissed by the bank in 2020, he was given $27,000 severance pay, and it was claimed this was pay he received despite not having worked. The lies were refuted by Andrés and numerous supporters. The problem was that the attacks were of such magnitude that responses were ineffectual. These attacks had so much echo in the private press and social media that it was not possible to recover from that, especially due to another error made not really by Arauz’s campaign, but by many of his supporters on social media.

They tried to sling mud back at Lasso: saying that Lasso had ties to organizations that had been hit with pedophilia scandals; that Lasso tried to buy a [public] bank (Banco del Pacifico) twelve years ago –which was true- thereby revealing his interest in accumulating financial power; that Lasso had paid Moreno’s brother $500,000 in 2015 –and there is evidence for that- to say that Moreno’s co-optation happened much earlier than 2017. All of these allegations, although backed by some truthful documentation, no longer had any effect. If you have two campaigns slinging mud, the one with more capacity to throw it will triumph. And Lasso had all the financial and media power of Ecuador behind him.

Another error was in managing the distance with between Arauz and Correa. I think Arauz’s initial strategy was designed to win in the first round. And to win in the first round he needed to project that closeness with Correa. Even in the slogans they used Arauz was identified with Correa. The main campaign slogan read: “We already have a president, President Andrés. Vote with party one, Rafael is in one”

JE: The electoral authorities (CNE) also prohibited Arauz from using Correa’s image and voice in television spots.

DV: They prohibited Arauz but allowed Lasso to use the image of Correa and Arauz with Moreno. It showed how dirty and biased the CNE was in selectively applying its own ruling. But during the second round, a strategy based on linking to Correa became insufficient. A mistake was made based on a superficial analysis of the behavior and emotions of the voter. In the first round they played up that closeness of Arauz to Correa, but in the second round, to capture the votes of the undecideds, they distanced him. But that distance came off as artificial. It also created a lot of dismay within the base because many said “well, why are you moving away from Correa?” With all the emotional impact of Moreno’s betrayal still fresh, I think that was very damaging.

In addition to generating alarm within the Correista vote, I believe it conveyed artificiality, a lack of authenticity that diminishes a candidate’s appeal in general.

It would have been interesting to see Correa and Arauz debate issues where they have differences to refute this image of Arauz as Correa’s puppet that Lasso’s campaign wanted to impose. But instead the “puppet” attack was handled very poorly, so badly that rumors of estrangement, ruptures, and resentments between different wings of correismo were generated. And this continues until now with this idea that some speak about of “Correismo without Correa.”
JE: I thought an interview Arauz gave on a right wing show (Hora25) late in the campaign might have propelled him to victory. The format–him fielding numerous very detailed policy questions–really allowed him to shine.
DV: Yes. It was excellent. Unfortunately it was at the last minute. I said from the beginning that Andrés’ advisers did not allow him to be himself. I have known Andrés for 10 years. He is a passionate candidate. He is not like Correa. He is another type of politician, but he is an extremely technical person, very clear and convincing. I think advisers convinced him to play a role, a character. I think they told him not to explain “very complicated” things, to always use simple language, to avoid contradicting people and to focus only on placing his message. That all obscured his true personality. During the campaign, I did not see the Andrés I knew. If I perceived that artificiality then I imagine others did. The only time I saw the Andrés I knew was in that Hora25 interview. If Andrés had ignored the advisers, if he had been the sarcastic technician, highly effective in argumentation, unafraid of contradicting anyone, unconcerned about differentiating himself from Correa, simply showing what he is, then I think he would have crushed Lasso. Lasso was also playing a character, but again, if you do that, it favors the campaign with more resources to pull it off.

JE: Can you explain the election results in provinces where Arauz did very well compared to those where he did not?

DV: There is a factor that I think has not been talked about much. There are provinces where Arauz won by a landslide and others where it was the opposite. I have a hypothesis. I think it has a lot to do with whether or not a certain province faced a recent crisis and what public perception was (in that province) of the state’s management of that crisis. In provinces such as those on the coast in Correa’s last years he faced two types of crises. First, the floods, and second the earthquake that destroyed a large part of Manabí and Esmeraldas in 2016. Those provinces were able to see first-hand what it meant to have a state that took strong action. When there was the earthquake, Correa travelled all over the devastated areas, organized the entire relief effort that supplied medicines and food. So much so that the provinces where Arauz had the most support were precisely Manabí and Esmeraldas. Correa’s enemies said he stole the money from the earthquake. If that had been true, Arauz should have received the least support in those areas, but it was the other way around. People know how to recognize good public service. There is an appreciation that turns into electoral support. I maintain that something similar happened in the rest of the provinces (also on the coast) that faced floods.

Correa’s built dams referred to as multipurpose flood containment. They were located at strategic points where rivers overflowed in times of heavy rain and wiped out entire crops and ruined farmers. These structures prevented floods during the rainy season, and stored the water so that during dry seasons it would help reduce volatility in short-cycle agricultural production.

I believe that coastal provinces appreciated the active state that Correa gave them. Then you have other provinces where the presence of the state was also felt but perceived it in a negative way. This is the case of certain border provinces with Colombia or Peru that depend on cross-border trade, such as Carchi and Loja.

In 2015, when the price of oil fell drastically, there were currency devaluations in our neighboring countries: Colombia and Peru. These devaluations made Ecuadorian products more expensive relative to our neighbors’ products. They generated waves of consumers who went to buy all they could–even toilet paper–in border cities. This caused an unexpected outflow of dollars that put a lot of pressure on the dollarized system of Ecuador, especially in 2015 when various factors reduced the inflow of dollars to the country. There was the need to impose restrictions on border trade. The border provinces objected because what many did was go buy in Colombia or Peru and sell in Ecuador taking advantage of the difference in prices. They experienced the presence of the state but perceived it in a negative way. So in provinces like Carchi and Loja Arauz’s vote was very low–like 32-36%.

Then there is a third group of provinces: the Central Highlands (Sierra Central) and the Amazon, those where indigenous nationalities have influence. There you have two figures who were key: Jaime Vargas (president of CONAIE) and Leónidas Iza. These two figures played high profile roles in the anti-austerity protests of October 2019. They were the visible face of the indigenous movement. That was the first social reaction that managed to put a brake on Moreno’s rightwing agenda, because until then Moreno targeted correismo to squash protests. They could not do that with the indigenous protesters because 10,000 came to the capital and stayed for about 15 days generating social pressure. The government had to roll back the infamous decree 883 that raised the price of fuel. It was the first time Moreno backed down. This re-legitimized the indigenous movement that had been weakened by its past deals with the right. So correismo was no longer the only force that represented the left. And that was seen in the first round votes in the provinces of the Sierra Central and Amazonia. The fall in votes for Correismo (compared to 2017) corresponded to an increase in votes for the indigenous movement.

JE: There was also an unusually high number of spoiled (“nulo”) ballots in the second round election compared to previous years that probably came from left-leaning voters who have become indifferent or hostile towards Correismo?

DV: Yes, there was already a heterogeneity within progressive voters just because of this smear campaign that has permeated part of the population. There are progressives who do not identify with the Citizens Revolution–sometimes because there are demands that the Citizen Revolution has failed to integrate, for example environmental demands. Let us remember that there was a lot of pressure in Correa’s time from certain environmental groups, sometimes manipulated and sometimes manipulative as well. Groups like Yasunidos and Acción Ecológica. They are NGOs that, although they present themselves as radical environmentalists, in practice they have been very useful to the elite. Both Acción Ecológica and Yasunidos played a very visible role in the media in Correa’s last years to reduce his political capital. But despite the fact that Moreno took numerous actions to expand the extraction of oil, and even though Moreno tricked them into supporting a key 2018 referendum by including a question about Yasuni National Park that was a total scam, neither Acción Ecológica nor the Yasunidos played any noticeable role in the demonstrations against Moreno. Why?

Perhaps they demonstrated, but since the media were not interested in weakening Moreno, they were not giving them any coverage. If they protested they went totally unnoticed. In their own eyes, they may have always been against power, but since their influence depends on the media spotlight, in practice they were used to weaken progressive forces.

JE: Iza and Vargas of CONAIE still vilify Correa’s government (even though Vargas endorsed Arauz a week before the election). The media terrain remaining what it is in Ecuador, I see that as a big problem. Going forward, Correaists will want to win over left-leaning voters who don’t identify with Correa, so they don’t want public skirmishes with Iza, Vargas or other CONAIE leaders. But I don’t think they can ignore all attacks on Correa’s government. I fear that will fracture their base rather than expand it through a “correismo without Correa” stance.

DV: Yes, in fact those attacks come from 2019 and in 2020 there were several skirmishes. Correa always answered them. That they talk about repression and corruption, always attacking Correismo, is something that cannot be ignored no matter how much you’d like a better relationship with those leaders. On social media, not only Correa, but many supporters of the Citizen Revolution always responded to the attacks by Iza and Vargas. That changed a bit during the election campaign. Iza and Vargas were more cautious–and Vargas even endorsed Arauz. There are some who think that was a bad thing because Vargas has a lot of opposition in Pichincha province, where Arauz needed to win votes. Vargas’ support may well have hurt Arauz more than it benefited him. And once the campaign was over, political considerations changed. Leonidas Iza is interested in being president of CONAIE where Correa has a lot of opposition, so it is very possible that Iza’s rhetoric will once again become aggressive against correismo. Iza is an educated and intelligent guy but right now he is advancing his own political agenda.

Regarding “Correismo without Correa” you have to look at the subject without passion. There is a faction of the left that on some issues–such as abortion–are more radical than Correa. They see Correa as a limitation due to certain conservative aspects of his rhetoric. In addition, due to his 10 years in office and his confrontational style, Correa has a lot of opposition in 30% or perhaps 40% of the electorate. If a left faction sees reasons for wanting to distance themselves, and to form a separate movement, they are perfectly entitled to do so. But they should not do so by taking advantage of Correa’s political capital. That’s unethical.

JE: Yes and it’s also wrong to contribute in any way to the vilification of Correa and his government when it’s the basis for ongoing persecution. I’d add that Correa’s approach of responding to attacks has a downside, but so does not responding.

DV: Correa must be understood in his historical moment. He arrived shortly after the banking system collapse of 1999 that wiped out the savings of half the population. It was a process of impoverishment and simultaneous enrichment of certain financial groups (who are now back in power). That generated outrage because of the impunity with which the bankers, especially, acted. They broke the economy and nothing happened to them. A few fled the country, but overall the power of the financial elite was strengthened. Correa arrived with a message of restoring rights that had been trampled, of empowering the Ecuadorian migrants abroad who were among the main victims of the crisis, of making bankers pay taxes and holding them accountable for the financial collapse. So he projected the strength of someone who would confront those who hand plundered the country. I think it was the leadership that Ecuador needed at that time, and in his decade in office, to clean up the causes of the 1999 crisis.

But during that decade aspirations began changing. Needs were changing. We went from requiring that the state be present (actually doing something useful) to requiring a state that did things better, with less delay and bureaucracy. The generation that put Correa in power had effectively lived without a state. It’s the generation that lived through the financial collapse of 1999. In contrast, the generation that grew up with Correa did not live in that country. They grew up in a country with a state and the media convinced them that the state was the problem. I know several former state scholarship winners who hate Correa, who complain bitterly about bureaucratic delays regarding their scholarship money. They don’t know what it was like to grow up in a country without such scholarships at all. But as things change, it’s also possible that the image that Correa projected in the past is not the ideal one for today’s Ecuador. Perhaps his approach to politics needs to change in order to address demands that were not a priority when he arrived. Any leader has to change with the times. And those who say that this change has to be done without Correa, well, they’re free to go their own way, but not by seizing political capital that they have not built.

JE: Can you talk a bit more about the bad relationship between Correa and many of the leaders of the largest indigenous confederation, CONAIE. I have never seen compelling argument that Correa is at fault for the problems.

DV: I think that both sides made mistakes. Correa reached out to CONAIE in 2006. When he went to the second round that year, he called for an alliance with CONAIE but they rejected it. Why? Because the betrayal of Lucio Gutiérrez [President from 2003-5] was very fresh. They threw their support behind Gutiérrez and he betrayed them within 3 months. He did a lot of damage to the movement’s credibility. At first, the relationship between CONAIE and Correa was distant but not acrimonious. It became so due to media pressure. They began protesting Correa’s government and there were police errors, as in Dayuma. Other demonstrations where led by Yaku Pérez and videos spread where he was seen getting roughed up with his partner Manuela Picq. And the private media did all it could to portray any police excesses as “Correa’s orders” to repress. The insulting rhetoric of some CONAIE leaders such as Salvador Quishpe, Lourdes Tiban, Humberto Cholango (who later became an official in Moreno’s government) was reflected in the nature of other demonstrations, where tires were burned, roads were blocked and even civilians and police forces were attacked.

Correa believes development requires a strong state where we are all subject to the rule of law–as we should be. In some demonstrations, backed by the media and some NGOs, significant violence was generated, and the perpetrators had to be held accountable. Of course, the media claimed “Correa persecutes the indigenous.” Compare that with how the same press depicted the indigenous demonstrations of October 2019 against Moreno: “criminals who want to destroy Quito”. The nefarious role that the media has played in all this is clear. That said, mistakes were made. Perhaps there could have been more flexibility. We continue to pay the cost of the bad relationship today. Perhaps with the new national assembly members and the presence of Arauz, a progressive rapprochement could take place. But that won’t happen if Pachakutik (CONAIE’s electoral wing) continues to ally itself with Lasso’s rightwing parliamentary bloc as it did between 2017 and 2021.

Unfortunately, the strengthening of CONAIE–deserved or not–by the October 2019 protests ended up harming the progressive cause. I say “deserved or not” because although they momentarily put the brakes on Moreno, their demands ultimately came to almost nothing. They called for the removal of both Interior Minister M. Paula Romo and Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrín (both architects of the October repression) and asked that fuel subsidies be maintained. But fuel prices did end up rising. Romo remained a minister for a year after October, almost until the end of Moreno’s government. Jarrín is still there to this day. So what did the October protests achieve?

JE: I think the persecution of Correaists will continue under Lasso. What do you think?

DV: Good question. We all want it to end. I think there are factors that differentiate Lasso from Moreno even though Moreno largely applied Lasso’s policies since 2017. Lasso’s bloc in the National Assembly supported nine out of ten laws proposed by Moreno. The blocs that supported Moreno in recent years were CREO (Lasso’s party), the Social Christians and other right-wing groups including the fake left of Pachakutik. Hopefully the new Pachakutik bloc, with 24 assembly members, will play a less shameful role. But despite those similarities, Lasso does not have the same personal tension, the level of hatred that Moreno’s betrayal of Correa unleashed.

The other factor is that Lasso is not interested in making the same mistakes Moreno did. Moreno said he hated those who voted for him in 2017. He said that to gain the appreciation of those who voted against him. He ended up hated by almost everyone. I don’t think Lasso wants that. I think he has smarter advisers. So Lasso may actually want to decrease polarization.

The problem is that Moreno’s repressive apparatus is still there. The prosecutor who went after Correa for “psychic influence” is still there. The authorities they put in place to “dismantle correismo” are still there. So even if Lasso washes his hands of it, a sword of Damocles remains over Correismo. And in moments of social tension, if Lasso raises taxes, or raises transportation prices, political persecution can quickly reactivate.

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