Ecuador’s economic success
An Ecuadorean consultant takes issue with Rob Cox’s column on President Rafael Correa’s stewardship of the South American nation over the past seven years, pointing to erosion of freedom of the press, greater control over the judicial system and unchecked government spending.
Dear Mr. Cox:
I read with interest your column on Ecuador, “Correa in a coalmine,” and wanted to highlight certain important events surrounding the Ecuadorean government’s performance under President Rafael Correa that may not have been apparent to you during the brief time you spent in the country.
First, during the seven years before Correa, Ecuador’s economy was already growing at an average annual rate of 4 percent, due mainly to a bonanza in petroleum prices (the main export) and to the confidence and stability brought to investors by the dollarization of the economy in 2000. However, in contrast to the Correa government, this important growth rate in 2000-2006 was achieved without the huge increases in government expenditure and debt that have taken place under the Correa administration.
Second, it is debatable whether the extraordinarily high $182 billion spent in seven years by the Correa government was “not squandered,” as you write in your article. So far, no independent audit of the government project expenditures has been performed and the nonfinancial public sector still has no audited accounts.
Third, newspapers and books, such as “Ecuador: Made in China” by Fernando Villavicencio and “El Gran Hermano” by Christian Zurita and Juan Carlos Calderón, have detailed how many government projects have been granted to the Chinese without competitive bidding, as required by law in Ecuador, and how government contracts and other favors have gone to Correa’s family and associates of his government. During this socialist government many other acts of corruption and conflict of interest in government contracts have also been disclosed in numerous reports by the remaining free press and in books written by Ecuadorean journalists and politicians.
Fourth, Correa has effectively grabbed control of the legislative branch, the justice system, the elections committee, the central bank and the comptroller’s office. In addition, Correa has led a frontal attack against the press and against whoever criticizes his government, imposing heavy fines, imprisonment and/or confiscating TV channels, magazines and radio stations. This has eroded the democratic system established in Ecuador, after the military dictatorship (1972-1979), until Correa came into power.
Fifth, to most educated Ecuadoreans, there is a worrisome association between Correa’s socialist government and those of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Belarus and Iran, which has also contributed to eroding democracy. And according to the U.S. State Department in 2013, Ecuador “remains a major transit country for cocaine shipments via aerial, terrestrial, and maritime routes, and heroin shipments via air and mail,” with cocaine seizures seeing “an overall decrease since the closure of the Manta Forward Operating Location (FOL) – a facility that permitted U.S. flights to detect and monitor drug shipments – in 2009.” These activities bring with them crime and unsolved murders.
These are some of the main reasons why many Ecuadoreans want a change of government, soon, and oppose a pre-announced, by Congress, violation of the Constitution which would allow Correa yet another (the third) four-year opportunity.
Juan Zambrano Fernández