Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno Moves Further Right With New Cabinet
Monday, May 21, 2018
GREGORY WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert, coming to you from Quito, Ecuador. Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, shook up his cabinet and appointed six new ministers this week. The move appears to confirm what many of his critics on the left have long suspected, which is that Moreno is moving the country increasingly towards the right. That is, they say he is reversing the policies under the previous government, Rafael Correa, who pursued a fairly progressive agenda, particularly in foreign and economic affairs.
For example, President Moreno’s new Minister of the Economy, Richard Martinez, comes directly from the country’s business class, where he worked as a consultant for the Chamber of Industry and Production, and he also was president of Ecuador’s Business Committee, which is the country’s main business association.
Joining me to analyze Moreno government’s political evolution is Guillaume Long. Guillaume is former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador under former President Rafael Correa. Most recently, he was Ecuador’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva under current President Lenín Moreno but resigned last January because of political differences with the Moreno administration. Thanks for joining us today, Guillaume.
GUILLAUME LONG: Thank you, Greg. Pleasure.
GREGORY WILPERT: So, last January you resigned as Ecuador’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. You said, back then, that it had to do with political differences and with Moreno. Tell us why you decided to make this move, and what were these political differences all about?
GUILLAUME LONG: Well, I felt Moreno was moving more and more towards the right, sort of had a creeping conservative agenda that was becoming more and more difficult to reconcile with. And the number of fronts in terms of foreign policy, also, getting closer and closer to the United States. Of course, there’s no issue with having good relations with the United States. We’ve always maintained that we wanted relations with the United States based on mutual respect.
But what we- what I felt Moreno was doing was kind of reintroducing the U.S., cozying up to the U.S., reintroducing it in kind of security and geopolitics and moving away from what we had espoused during the Citizens’ Revolution, which was more kind of sovereign, non-aligned foreign policy based on Latin American integration and sort of an intelligence incursion in a multipolar world. And not just this kind of return within the U.S. kind of imperial fold.
So, I felt that it wasn’t possible to be Moreno’s personal representative in the UN anymore. There were a number of issues that that I disagreed with. Moreno, also, by January, had made it pretty clear that he wanted to obliterate the legacy of his predecessor, Rafael Correa. I think Moreno was elected in 2017 basically on a platform promising the continuation of the Citizens’ Revolution, of Rafael Correa’s political process. And so, I felt that there was a betrayal there. He was obliterating it rhetorically. He was blaming everything on his predecessor.
But he was also organizing a referendum, which actually occurred in February, attempting- which the whole purpose of the referendum was to bury the legacy of Correa, and to prevent Rafael Correa from ever coming back in Ecuador in politics by- one of the questions of the referendum was aimed at barring any type of reelection- so, any kind of return on behalf of Rafael Correa, which is, you know, a pretty extreme thing if you were elected on a ticket as Rafael Correa’s successor, and you were kind of Rafael Correa’s vice president, and you claimed during the political campaign to be elected, that Rafael Correa was the best president. I quote, you know, “best president in Ecuador’s history.”
So, long story short, I felt there were a number of issues on the political front, on the geopolitical and security front, and there were kind of a number of things also, and that they’re now being confirmed, as you just mentioned, on the economic front. That meant that there was a rupture with the past, a rupture with the progressive trajectory of the revolution, that we were just going back to the neoliberal fold. And I didn’t want to be a part of it.
GREGORY WILPERT: Yeah, actually, mentioning the new Minister of the Economy, it seems like he’s somebody, also, who comes from the right, that he would introduce a lowering of taxes in various areas and generally pursue a more neoliberal economic program. I mean, do you see any evidence of this, that is, of a neoliberal program?
And what about his main social program, Toda una Vida or Whole Life, which his defenders would point out to, is not a neoliberal program, which covers everything from nutrition to housing to education. How do you reconcile this, that is, this kind of neoliberal bent, apparently with a new Minister of the Economy on the one hand, and on the other hand, this kind of social program that he has been promoting quite extensively?
GUILLAUME LONG: Yeah. I mean, what I’ve just described is what I felt in January, the reason why I quit, why I handed in my resignation as Ecuador’s Ambassador to the UN. But I think since then, the situation has got significantly worse. I mean, there’s an even greater departure from the legacy of this, of ten years of the Citizens’ Revolution of Rafael Correa’s government. We’ve really gone right-wing now.
And you mentioned the new Minister of Economy and Finance, who was actually active and actively involved in the campaign of Moreno’s rival in the 2017 elections that Moreno won. I mean, Moreno was elected against Guillermo Lasso. Guillermo Lasso was the other candidate- very, very neoliberal. So, you know, Moreno wasn’t the perfect candidate. We always knew he wasn’t the perfect candidate, but facing the threat of a Lasso government, you know, we were all very anxious for his victory.
What Moreno did over the next few months is, little by little, have people from the Lasso camp, so, the losing camp, coming to his government. Now, he said this was all about “dialogue” and “being very inclusive.” That’s absolutely fine. I mean, being inclusive and dialogue is a good thing, but he actually said at one point that he was very- he actually, in a conversation with bankers, he said that he was very grateful for them. Those are the words he employed. He was very grateful for them not having voted for him and that he was very angry. He had actually used the word hatred, “I have a lot of hatred for the people who voted for me.”.
So, you know this is pretty- this is not just like, you know, sort of trying to be bipartisan and bringing in a new age of dialogue and being more ecumenical. This is reneging and betraying your promises in the campaign. I mean, when you are when you are elected you are on a program, on what you’ve promise to do in your campaign. And everything he promised to do in his campaign, he’s basically done the reverse. He’s brought on the people from the right-wing, including from the people who campaigned against him, and this new Minister of Economy and Finance is clearly one of them.
So, I think what we’ve seen over a period of a year since he was- since Moreno was elected, is him directly moving to espousing the agenda of the traditional, aristocratic, plutocratic, oligarchic, right-wing that actually opposed him in the 2017 elections. So, which is right- this is quite a remarkable phenomenon. This is a very unusual, very well-calculated, very well operated- there are a lot of very key advisers in the Moreno administrations that have kind of brought along this massive, huge betrayal of a political project.
It’s taken him a year to get where he wanted to get to, which is to bring the neoliberals on board to run the country. And this new person, as you rightly said, this new Minister of Economy and Finance, is a complete neoliberal, he is not a moderate neoliberal. He’s a very radical neoliberal who believes in the whole neoliberal recipe, which is the direct opposite of what we did for ten years when we had a much more heterodox, a much more sort of anti-austerity program, which allowed for growth, redistribution, for the reduction of poverty, of inequality, and was very successful. I think Ecuador was one of the most successful economic models in the “pink tide” for Latin America for a long time.
In fact, it’s one of the countries that, at least, suffered the commodities declines, because it was very successful. So, I think we’re going to see a big structural adjustment campaign. So far, Moreno hasn’t done that much in the economy. You mentioned his program, Toda una Vida. I haven’t seen very much happening. There’s been very little public investment. He hasn’t completely torn apart what we established, all the social safety nets and the kind of welfare state that we created. But we haven’t really seen his own version of what this welfare state should be. And I would argue that over the next three months, we’re going to see his near a very neo liberal version of what the economy should look like.
GREGORY WILPERT: And finally, I just want to turn to the area of foreign policy. How do you see that shaping up under Moreno? Ecuador still remains a member of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, to which Venezuela and Cuba and Nicaragua belong as well, which is kind of the thing that Chavez and Castro actually founded. Do you see any moves on Moreno’s part to distance himself from this alliance and from Correa’s foreign policy? I mean, you mentioned already the policy towards the United States, but I’m just wondering also if there’s other areas, perhaps.
GUILLAUME LONG: Yeah. I mean, he’s basically not said anything positive about anything remotely related to the kind of progressive agenda in international relations. He’s certainly not gone to any ALBA summits. He doesn’t- he’s not said anything nice about left-wing governments. On the contrary, he’s sent very clear signals where he allegiances lie.
And he has a Foreign Minister that’s kind of inherited from the previous period, who’s obviously now fallen out with Correa, because to be with Moreno was to have seriously fallen out with Correa, and to be part of this kind of political project that’s betrayed the Citizens’ Revolution. But this Foreign Minister still is trying to kind of pretend that Ecuador is still on a non-aligned, sort of multipolar, progressive, non-neoliberal pathway to its foreign policy.
But every time she says something that’s remotely progressive, Moreno then inevitably, the next day, cracks down and says exactly the reverse. So, she’s in an untenable situation and she’s about to leave the government. And the way she’s trying to do this is by being elected in the UN General Assembly. Anyway. But the point is this kind of transition from Moreno having a large cabinet largely made up by people who worked for Correa to a cabinet now largely made up by people who were always in the opposition to Rafael Correa, including this new Minister of Finance, is now coming to a close.
I mean, what we’re seeing now, very few people from Correa era, the left is basically out of the government, the right is in. And this is having a big repercussion on foreign policy. Morena also took the very bold step, which I think is a very strong signal, in fact, a very right-wing signal of copping out of the peace process in Colombia, of refusing not just to be the host country for the negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN, but actually refusing to be a guarantor, which is a pretty extreme position to have espoused on behalf of the Moreno administration.
So, I’m seeing- and Moreno’s expressed his will to be a part of the Alliance for the Pacific (Alianza del Pacífico), which is kind of very right-wing, both ideologically and in terms of its economic policies and program. So, I think there is- there’s a lot of talk of “the end of cycle” in Latin America. We could discuss whether there’s such a thing or not, but if there is, then Moreno is certainly a major component of it.
GREGORY WILPERT: Okay, well we’re going to have to leave it there for now. But I’m glad you brought up the ELN issue, which is certainly one also that I wanted to bring up. We’ve interviewed, actually, in the past, Beltran, the negotiator here in Ecuador for the ELN. And that seems to me, also a very important issue. So, anyway, I was speaking to Guillaume Long, former Foreign Minister of Ecuador. Thanks again for having joined me today.
GUILLAUME LONG: Thank you.
GREGORY WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network.