Ecuador’s president: US must respect Latin America's own path
Ecuador's president Rafael Correa discusses political and social change in Ecuador, the possibilities for Peru under new leadership, and US arrogance and dominance toward Latin America.
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Stability takes time
Lowenthal: It is vital for a country to achieve previsibilidad – that is, stability of expectations about the rules of the game, and about the processes for making changes in these rules over time. But how can a radically transformational and refoundational movement like yours achieve previsibilidad?Skip to next paragraph
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Correa: Previsibilidad IS important, but not the previsibilidad of slavery or other forms of coercive domination. What is needed is to develop new and equitable rules of the game and truly democratic processes of decision-making. That takes time. Some uncertainty, instability, and lack of investor confidence were inevitable and were foreseen, for a transitional period. But by now we are setting the conditions for a positive previsibilidad, and establishing clear legal norms that are fair, not exploitative, to Ecuador and its masses. We are building a strong infrastructure to attract development, fostering social cohesion that will remove sources of unrest and instability, and developing clear and well-communicated national plans. Investment is now rising.
Lowenthal: Peru faces so many of the same problems Ecuador does – profound inequality, ethnic divisions, weak parties and other institutions, and the international exploitation of resources. Yet Peru has center-right politics. What explains the absence of a strong leftist movement in Peru?
Correa: The key is the absence of bold and persuasive political leadership in Peru, and its presence in Ecuador. Prior to the 2006 elections, “left” parties had the support of only 3 to 4 percent of Ecuadorians, according to the polls. But when Ecuadorians encountered a leader who understood their concerns and articulated a positive vision for major change, they responded very positively. Up to now, Peru has not experienced that kind of leader, but when one emerges, there will be space and support.
US vested interests prevent change in Latin America
Lowenthal: What are your views of US policies toward Latin America and toward Ecuador under President Obama? Are there ways for Ecuador and the United States to cooperate on shared concerns and interests?
Correa: I admire US society, and I had a very positive experience in the United States during the four years I studied for the Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. But US foreign policy has historically been antagonistic to progressive change in Latin America, and has been marked by attitudes of domination and arrogance. The United States must learn to respect the autonomy and sovereignty of Latin American countries, even small ones, but George W. Bush epitomized disdain for Latin American sovereignty. If there have been frictions between Ecuador and the United States in recent years, they have been because of this tendency.
I have personal respect for President Obama and for the positive changes he seeks to introduce, but the US system and the power of vested interests have prevented significant changes.
Lowenthal: Former President Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic once told me that even if the American people elected Saint Francis of Assisi as their president, the US system would proceed unchanged, always exploiting the countries of the south. Do you share Bosch’s view?
Correa: President Bosch was making an important point – that strong interests and powerful groups are responsible for much of US foreign policy. Ecuador experiences this in the activity and influence of right-wing think tanks and lobbyists, the Nuevo Herald of Miami, and others who lobby against Ecuador, as they intervened in Honduras. But there are other sectors in the United States as well, and cooperation with the United States is possible on shared concerns as long as Washington respects Ecuador’s sovereignty.