Lenín Moreno’s regime came to an end: what did the former Ecuadorian president who betrayed the ‘Correísmo’ leave behind?
After four years of betrayal of the people who elected him on May 24, 2017, believing that it would be the continuity of the Citizen Revolution initiated by former President Rafael Correa, the now also former head of State of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, left the country in a deep economic crisis, which presents worrying indicators of hunger, misery, inequality, deeply indebted to the International Monetary Fund and poor management not only by the government but also in the face of the health crisis caused by covid-19.
Lenín Moreno, described as the greatest traitor in the history of Ecuador, handed over the presidency to Guillermo Lasso, who won the last elections in the country and who has promised to end the political persecution that his predecessor encouraged.
«The country that Lenín Moreno inherited is a country that, although it had been facing some problems, in general had a good course», says Miguel Ruiz, a professor at the Central University of Ecuador (UCE) in statements to the journalist Edgar Romero of RT.
Ruiz points out that the Correa administrations [2007-2017] were guided «more or less» by the principle of «people first, Ecuadorians first before international commitments, honoring above all the social debt.»
«Lenin’s ‘decorreización’ (Wiping out Correa’s legacy) of Ecuador»
Despite coming from ‘the hand of his predecessor’, shortly after settling in the Presidency Moreno began a process that many called the «decorreización» of the country; turning his back on the Citizen Revolution, of which he also served as vice president between 2007 and 2013, and changing the course to a completely different model.
Ruiz mentions that a «new power bloc» was formed around Lenín Moreno, with the «historical adversaries of the Citizen Revolution», who are «part of the country’s economic, political and media elites».
He indicates that the «decorreización of the country» meant «de-institutionalizing many of the spaces that with much work had been built since the Constitution of Montecristi [of 2008], the spaces for citizen participation, etc».
From the first year of Moreno’s mandate there were important institutional changes, for which a popular consultation was carried out in February 2018, promoted by Lenín Moreno, in which it was approved, among other things, to terminate the term of the members of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS), which allowed a temporary one to be installed, which appointed new incumbents in key institutions of the country, such as the State Attorney General’s Office, the National Electoral Council, the Judicial Council, the Constitutional Court, the Contentious Electoral Court and the State Attorney General’s Office.
After these four years, says Ruiz, the institutions of the State were left with a «profound crisis of legitimacy» before the citizens of Ecuador.
In addition to deinstitutionalizing, the «decorreización of the country» implied – adds Ruiz – «the political and judicial persecution of a good part of the militancy, the leadership and the political middle cadres of the Citizen Revolution». During this governmental period, for example, Correa, former president Jorge Glas and other former officials of the past administration were tried and convicted.
According to the analyst, there were no «clean and transparent» processes in these cases, but Justice was used «in an arbitrary and biased manner for a real witch hunt» with the aim of «politically discrediting the largest political force of the country, which is the Citizen Revolution «, an issue that – he says – «they succeeded to a great extent».
Regarding this ‘new’ political course that the country took and that extends with the victory of the right in the last presidential elections, in which Guillermo Lasso won, Lenín Moreno – in an interview with the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio at the beginning of May – said: “Socialism of the 21st century can be defeated democratically. This is what we did here in Ecuador».
Ecuador did not escape the crisis caused by the coronavirus, but, in this case, it came at a hard time for the country’s public health system.
The first case was made known at the end of February 2020, almost a year after the dismissal of more than 2,500 workers from the state health sector was ordered, within the 2018-2021 Prosperity Plan and the Optimization Plan of the Executive Branch, as denounced by the National Single Trade Union Organization of Workers of the Ministry of Public Health (Osuntramsa).
The government’s management of the pandemic was harshly criticized. The first months of the health crisis hit Guayaquil, capital of the Guayas province, very hard. Bodies were seen on the streets and sidewalks, as well as the collapse of hospitals and cemeteries.
There were also corruption scandals, such as the improper charge in public hospitals to relatives of the deceased to deliver the corpses and the surcharge in public purchases during the emergency.
According to the Ministry of Health, until this Sunday, May 23, Ecuador registered 418,851 coronavirus infections since the beginning of the pandemic and 20,193 deaths -14,764 confirmed and 5,429 probable due to covid-19.
However, the number of deaths could be higher. The country closed 2020 with 14,034 deaths from covid-19, but, according to data from the Civil Registry, last year 115,150 people died in this South American country from different causes (including the coronavirus), an increase of 41,413 compared to 2019, when there were 73,737 deaths; While the previous year, 2018, the deaths were 71,317, that is, only 2,420 of difference.
In the midst of this harsh situation, last December, 572 doctors, nurses and administrators from all hospitals in Ecuador were fired, according to the National Confederation of Public Servants (Conasep).
Another criticism is that five ministers were in charge of the Health Ministry during the pandemic (and six during the entire term), who were resigning or changed due to different scandals, mainly related to the vaccination process.
The president promised to vaccinate at least 2 million people against the coronavirus between January 2021 and the date of his departure, this May 24; however, he did not meet that goal. According to the ‘Plan Vacunarse‘ website, 1,627,070 vaccines of drugs against covid-19 had been applied as of May 19, and of that number only 401,335 people had received the two required doses.
Regarding health infrastructure, last week, Lenín Moreno reported that 749.1 million dollars were invested in six new hospitals and the repowering of 20. Of the six built, only two were delivered: General Napoleón Dávila Córdova de Chone and that of Specialties of Portoviejo, both in the province of Manabí and whose construction began during Correa’s mandate.
Lenin and the agreements with the IMF (and the protests)
In March 2019, the Ecuadorian government signed a program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to access a loan of 4.2 billion dollars, which was suspended in 2020 because the country did not meet some of the goals set by the organism; In September 2020, the Institution’s Board of Executive Directors approved a new agreement, for a loan of 6.5 billion dollars over a period of 27 months, within the framework of the Expanded Facility of the IMF (SAF).
«With the IMF again we lowered our heads», says Ruiz, noting that the conditions imposed were harsh, such as «fiscal austerity, cuts in public spending, and in wages», among others.
Months after the signing of the first agreement with the IMF, in October 2019, Moreno announced a series of economic measures and a package of reforms. One of the actions was the elimination of subsidies for gasoline ‘extra’ and ‘eco-country’, the most used in Ecuador, as well as diesel, which caused their prices to rise.
This generated a social outbreak, which lasted from October 3 to the 13th, leaving 11 dead, 1,340 injured, including 11 people who lost an eye, and 1,192 detainees, according to data from the Ombudsman’s Office. After an agreement, Moreno repealed the Executive Decree 883, by which these subsidies were eliminated, the protest was lifted and fuel prices fell again.
A Special Commission for Truth and Justice, which analyzed these protests, issued a report last March in which it concluded that the State is responsible for the repression and human rights violations in these demonstrations. After that, a complaint was filed with the Prosecutor’s Office against Moreno for alleged crimes against humanity.
Although the controversial Executive Decree 883 was repealed, in 2020 the president established a system of fuel price bands, to gradually reduce the State subsidy. This causes the prices of these products to fluctuate every month, based on the average of the prices of the Eastern and WTI oil in the international market. On this, on May 5, during his participation in the Forum for the Defense of Democracy in the Americas in Miami, US, Moreno said: «In the end we got away with what wanted».
In response to the IMF’s SAF, the ‘Organic Law to Reform the Organic Monetary and Financial Code for the Defense of Dollarization’ was also approved in the last month of his mandate, which some analysts have defined as a regulation that privatizes the Central Bank of Ecuador.
During Moreno’s period, and partly in the last year due to the coronavirus health crisis, negative numbers were registered in some indicators, such as the poverty and extreme poverty index.
In December 2016, five months before Moreno assumed power, poverty in Ecuador reached 22.9% and extreme poverty stood at 8.7%, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (Inec). In the same month of 2020, the poverty rate stood at 32.4% and the extreme poverty rate at 14.9%.
According to an article by the Public Expenditure Observatory, until the end of 2020, the Ecuadorian Government had an external debt of 45,367 million dollars and 42% of that amount corresponds to obligations with international organizations such as the IMF or the Latin American Reserve Fund ( FLAR).
In relation to the internal debt, this exceeded 17,000 million until that moment. The Government owed 500 million dollars to the Central Bank, another 1,509 million to the Development Bank of Ecuador, 381 million to social security and 14,697 million in debt securities issued.
Dismantling the State
During his administration, Moreno insisted on reducing the size of the State. Thus, he abolished and merged ministries and government secretariats, which led to layoffs in the public sector.
In the midst of the pandemic, not only health personnel were fired, but also education personnel. According to the National Union of Educators (UNE), during the health crisis, around 10,000 teachers were dismissed from their posts.
There was a cut in resources for education, health and culture, among other areas, in the State Budget.
In May 2020, Moreno announced the liquidation of eight state companies: the airline Tame, Ferrocarriles del Ecuador (Trains of Ecuador), Correos del Ecuador (Post Office of Ecuador), Public Media, High Performance Centers, Strategic Ecuador, Siembra (Yachay Tech) and Storage Unit (commercialization of agricultural products). On that occasion, he also announced the savings of $ 980 million in public «wages».
He also closed embassies and diplomatic offices. Specifically, the headquarters of Malaysia, Iran, Nicaragua, Algeria, Nigeria, Belarus, Ethiopia and Angola, the representation before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Secretariat of the Andean Parliament were eliminated.
Closer to the US
Moreno initiated a rapprochement with the United States or a reorientation of Ecuador’s foreign policy with Washington.
«The Rafael Correa government was a period in which Ecuador distanced itself from an old submission that the Ecuadorian political and economic class had to the dictates of US geopolitics», explains Ruiz.
The analyst points out that with Moreno there was a shift in US policy on different levels. One of them is the economic-commercial one. Both countries signed a «First Phase Trade Agreement» – the name as it became known in the media – which was actually a «New Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency», which updated the «Agreement of the Council for Trade and Investments (TIC, for its acronym in English) US – Ecuador ”, signed in 1990.
There are also «geopolitical issues», says Ruiz, «where the submission to the US foreign policy agenda was very evident». Among other things, Ruiz named the withdrawal of the political asylum of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2019, after being at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012; the guideline with Venezuela, which includes recognition of the ‘self-proclaimed interim president’ of that country, Juan Guaidó; and the exit and «burial» of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), whose headquarters was on the outskirts of Quito.
Likewise, «police and military cooperation agreements were signed between the two governments», adds Ruiz.
In these four years, the then US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, visited the South American country; a mission from the US Southern Command; Mark Green, then administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), an entity that had left the country in 2013; David Hale, who was the US Vice Minister of State for Political Affairs; and who was the secretary of State of the US under Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo.
In February 2020, Moreno and then-US President Donald Trump had a meeting at the White House.
Before leaving the Carondelet Palace, on May 18, Moreno presented the Condecoration of Merit to the US Ambassador to Ecuador, Michael Fitzpatrick.
During his many public speeches, Moreno generated controversy for several comments. For example, in April 2018, during a ceremony in Cuenca, he outlined some words against doctors: “When they tell you that you have cancer, the only one who is happy is the doctor. He who has cancer changes his life and in the end the doctor changes cars».
In August 2019, speaking of entrepreneurship in Ecuador, he endorsed child labor and used a derogatory term to refer to children, saying: “We are a country of entrepreneurs, necessity obliges. That’s why you come to Guayaquil […], forgive me the term, I am not saying it in derogatory terms, a 5-year-old little monkey, has already bought a ‘cola’ (Coke), some plastic cups and is selling them in a corner […] this is in the very essence of Ecuadorians».
In January 2020, during a meeting with investors in Guayaquil, his wild comments were against women: “Men are permanently subjected to the danger of being accused of harassment. And I see that women often report harassment, it is true, and it is good for them to do so, but sometimes I see that they get angry with those ugly people in harassment; that is, harassment is, when it comes from an ugly person, but if the person is well presented, according to the canons, they usually do not necessarily think that it is harassment».
Last April, in his radio program ‘De Frente con el Presidente’, the president said that when they were traveling in a vehicle with the window open, a woman approached him to tell him that Ecuadorians were hungry. After describing the woman as a person «quite plump in flesh», Moreno recalled that he rebuked her: «Not you, ma’am. You look pretty chubby».
His last comment, at the beginning of May, during his participation in the Miami forum, was: «At some point a person told me and told me in a frontal way as people are used to: I wish we had a better president. I said to him: I wish I had a better people too».
Lenín Moreno won the elections in 2017 with 51.15% of the votes and had 66% approval among Ecuadorians at the time of assuming the Presidency, in May of that year, according to Cedatos. However, a year later, that approval dropped to 46%; In May 2019 it reached 26% and in the same month last year it was 18.7%.
Regarding credibility, Lenín Moreno started with 63% in May 2017, dropped to 42.3% in May 2018, 24.7% in May 2019, 10.4% in October 2019 and 14.7% upon completing three years of government in May 2020.
In March of this year, the approval of Lenín Moreno barely reached 4.8% and the credibility of his word was 2.8%, according to the same pollster.
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