Part of the problem you’re seeing in Ecuador is what contradicts directly with what was codified in the 2008 constitution. This is particularly true in terms of plurinationalism and sumak kawsay (the good life). This is supposed to incorporate alternative visions of development and Correa wants to see those exclusively on the levels of symbolic statements rather than something that will be operationalized. Indigenous movements don’t see this as something symbolic, but something that needs to be operationalized and put into practice.
Source: White Rose Reader
Marc Becker is an associate professor of Latin American Studies at Truman State University. He has worked with indigenous movements and has written widely on social and indigenous movements in Latin America. He is the cofounder of Nativeweb, an educational organization dedicated to using technology to disseminate information from and about indigenous issues and foster communication between native and non-native peoples. He is the author of numerous books including Pachakutik: Indigenous Movements and Electoral Politics in Ecuador (2012) and Global Democracy and the World Social Forums (2007). Marc is also an Upside Down World contributing writer.
Paul Gottinger: In the US Rafael Correa is portrayed as a leftist, but in Ecuador some of the Indigenous movements and other leftist social forces accuse him of implementing neoliberal policies. How would you characterize his policies?
Marc Becker: I’ve long worked with leftist indigenous movements in Latin America, so in a lot of these issues I follow along with their interpretations. But, calling Rafael Correa a neoliberal is maybe an over statement, or a bit polemical. A better question is whether he has completely broken from the neoliberal patterns. Correa presents himself as a leftist and the question here is what exactly does he mean by that. A concern here is that he comes out of a technocratic, academic, pragmatic left, rather than a social movement-left. This is a distinction that some activists make. The electoral-left versus a social movement-left.
PG: How does Correa balance his image as a leftist when has tried to implement water privatization, continues with oil exploration and mining, and other policies similar to Ecuador’s previous presidents? And how do these policies affect his relationship with the indigenous communities and movements?
MB: There are two different visions, that go back for decades, and there is this indigenous critique that says the left is part of the same old European forms of modernization that inform capitalism. Correa is very much in that line. He embraces an extractivist modernization type of mentality. Part of the problem you’re seeing in Ecuador is that contradicts directly with what was codified in the 2008 constitution, which was supposed to incorporate indigenous sensibilities. This is particularly true in terms of plurinationalism and sumak kawsay (the good life). This is supposed to incorporate alternative visions of development and Correa wants to see those exclusively on the levels of symbolic statements rather than something that will be operationalized. That’s the problem we’re seeing with the indigenous movements. They don’t see this as something symbolic, but something that needs to be operationalized and put into practice.
PG: Are many of the indigenous movements anti-development?
MB: They would not say that and their allies would not say that. The difference is talking about what’s sustainably and what’s not sustainable. One place where it really struck me was at the world social forum in 2005 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Hugo Chavez came and he gave a talk where for the first time he defined himself as a socialist. He laid this out really clearly. He basically said he have two paths that we can follow, socialism or death. If we continue to follow along the capitalist framework we will destroy the planet. The planet cannot sustain this extractivist, commodity based, development at all cost mentality. It will lead to death. The other option is to look for more sustainable ways of surviving. Chavez defined the sustainable path with socialism. He’s saying we need to figure out a better way to survive on this planet or we will destroy the planet and human life as we know it. The indigenous critique is of this development at all costs model that the Chinese and Correa are following. So, its not anti-moderization, anti-development mentality. It’s saying look there are more important things than modernization and development at all costs if that going to end up destroying the world in which we live. In a nutshell that’s what the sumak kawsay is about. It’s saying how can we develop in a sustainable way. That’s really the debate that is going on in Ecuador around mineral and petroleum extraction and water usages. Is there alternative ways to pursue these issues in a way that is sustainable and benefits everybody? Rather than saying we are going to modernize our country even if it ends up destroying it, which is what the indigenous left accuses Correa of following.
PG: How do you see Correa’s relationship to the non-indigenous left in Ecuador? Is it substantially different than his relationship to the indigenous left?
MB: The people who seem to be most opposed to Correa’s policies are what I would call the ‘center-left’. A social democratic-left or moderate-left. For the most part I would group most indigenous movements in to that category. I think it’s a mistake to see the indigenous movements as separate from the broader political phenomena in Latin America. That’s for a variety of reasons. The are Indigenous movements and I use the plural intentionally because the indigenous movements are not homogenous. There’s multiple positions here. So, there’s not really an indigenous position. In the upcoming elections on February 17 there are these conservative, evangelical indigenous communities that will probably vote heavily for Lucio Gutierrez the more conservative candidate, or what I would characterize as the neoliberal candidate. There are also other wings of the indigenous movement, particularly in the Amazon, that would be characterized as anti-modernization and anti-development left. In the groups that I work with there’s a dominant center left position that is looking for how to develop Ecuador along the lines that benefit all of Ecuador and not just the indigenous movements. In many ways the argument would be that we’re not doing this just for indigenous peoples, or even just Ecuador, but we’re doing this for the world as a whole. The indigenous movements have become some of his strongest opposition from the left because they have historically been the best-organized sectors of Ecuador. There are also the remnants of what I would call a Stalinist-left. That strongly supports Correa and these are people who are Stalinists in the sense that they are advocating for strong government structures as a way to solve problems. Correa is providing, really for the first time, an example of somebody that is making strong use of government structures in order to improve society. A lot of his support comes from that part of the left. Then there is another part, which I could call the technocratic-left, NGO- left, academic-left. I wouldn’t say a lot of these people are ideologically committed to a leftist agenda. They’re more a group of people who are technocrats that are taking advantage of the government that’s currently in power in order to position themselves into positions of power. Some of these people who have positions of power in Correa’s government have long been in government and have worked with previous neoliberal governments. This is where Correa comes out of. He’s never been part of the leftist political party, he’s never been an activist, or involved in social struggles. He has the outlook of how can we solve problems with technocratic solutions. The left that is opposing the Stalinist and technocratic-left is a social movement-left that is more committed to a participatory left. They are committed to trying to mobilize people and involve people in political processes. Some people see them as more of an anarchistic-left because of their opposition to strong state structures and opposition to authoritarianism. I don’t think in the Ecuadorian case it’s really proper to characterize this segment of the left in that way. There are some anarchistic tendencies there, but for the most part it’s not really an anarchistic model similar to the Zapatistas in Chiapas. The influences and ideas are a little bit different.
PG: One thing that strikes me is how much variation and how well-developed and dynamic the left is in Ecuador when compared to the left in the US. Is this something that has always been the case?
MB: Its something that’s always been the case. My research focuses on the 1920s and 1930s. A key moment is when the socialist party is founded in Quito in 1926 because globally we see three main trends in the left. The anarchist wing, like the Wobblies (IWW). There’s the Marxist-left and a utopian-socialist-left. Marxism states you need a class struggle between the workers and owners to achieve socialism. Utopian-Socialism states socialism will magically appear. These three tendencies form the modern-left and in Ecuador there are two other tendencies which are strong influences here. One is radical liberalism. These are people who break from 19th century liberalism and are looking for more radical structural solutions. In Ecuador there is strong presence of an indigenous left that persists until the present. Its those five tendencies that formed the Socialist Party in 1926 and for a moment they worked together, but very quickly they broke apart. What’s interesting is that they didn’t break apart along the same lines that they came together. In Ecuador the communists and socialists fragmented over the idea whether this was a national or international struggle. The Communists wanted to ally with Communist International and the socialists didn’t want to adhere to an international line. There was a third wing, which was a vanguardist wing that was associated with military socialism. That’s the type of trend that Hugo Chavez comes out of. Subsequently, those three tendencies have fragmented along other lines. The communist-left fragmented into pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese tendencies and parts of that are still apparent. The socialists broke into three wings. A right, left and center. You see this in Chile, for example, with Salvador Allende. As a socialist he was to the left of the communists. That’s the case in Ecuador as well. There was a revolutionary-socialist wing that was more radical than the communist wing. The strongest and best-organized wing of the indigenous movement was aligned with the pro-Soviet/Stalinist wing of the communist party. That is probably because of the structure that they brought to organizing patterns. So, the current indigenous movements are influenced by this history. But, for the most part the indigenous movements haven’t followed the remnants of the Stalinist wing into support of the Correa administration. There is very little indigenous presence in Correa’s administration. There’s really a Western mentality that excludes indigenous voices in the administration of the Ecuadorian state.
PG: Ecuador has such a healthy left! There is so much nuance and division where in the US the left is really scattered by comparison.
MB: People often lay out reasons why the US never has as strong of a left as other places, but I don’t find any of the usual excuses convincing. I think it’s a matter of what kind of world we want to create. One thing I find really inspiring about studying indigenous movements in Latin America, and social movements in general, is the intelligence, determination, and willingness to create alternative structures. The Correa administration very much emerges out of this trend. There is always a danger in criticizing Correa if it strengthens the common enemies on the right, particularly the oligarchy. One way you see the mainstream indigenous movements in Ecuador being very politically aware of this is that they will never make alliances with oligarchical right against Correa because they want to push Correa to the left and they don’t want to undermine their historic left interests. This is something we see in the US as well. How to we push Barak Obama to the left without strengthening the right. It’s a common concern that faces the social movement-left when confronting electoral politics and the inevitable compromises politicians have to make.
PG: What’s your guess at how Correa sees the indigenous movements and the social forces to his left?
MB: The Correa administration occupies political and social spaces that indigenous movements previously occupied. He appears to view them as a political opponent. He sees it as something to combat. If you look at this as part of a broader phenomenon its not at all unique. For example, in Chiapas, Mexico there’s a struggle between subcomandante Marcos and Bishop Ruiz over who is going to lead the masses. There’s a competition there. It’s not exactly the same as in Ecuador, but it is a similar type of dynamic. The question is: are the social movements going to set the agenda, or is Correa going to set the agenda? In some ways Correa seems to see it as a zero sum game. I don’t think it is the best way to see it. In the 2006 election when Correa won. Pachakutik (the indigenous party) pulled 2%. This time it looks like they’re on line to pull maybe about 5%. Correa says: this is an insignificant percentage of the population and I don’t need to bring it into my coalition as an electoral calculation to gain power. In fact, my collogues in Ecuador say that since Correa was elected there’s been an increase of racist incidents and racism in general. This is a phenomenon we see elsewhere, like Columbia for example. The indigenous movements are so well-organized that they gain political space that exceeds their numerical representation in the country. In the Ecuador there is a certain amount of resentment by non-indigenous of indigenous for gaining political power and political space. It appears that Correa plays the race card and plays into the latent racist attitudes of the dominant population of white and mestizo people. You see this in Correa’s rhetoric. He says very nasty things about indigenous people, environmentalists, and what he terms ultra-leftists. He seems to make these statements in order to shore up his electoral support among other sectors of the population. It’s a populist strategy to cement his electoral support rather than mobilizing the population as a social movement. That’s what concerns a lot of us.
PG: Why is the indigenous left so well organized compared to other sectors of the left in Ecuador?
MB: Some of it is a matter of leadership, such as who emerges and who is able to organize a sector of society. Part of it is an economic and social context that provides a situation where you can organize effectively. Part of it is a historical trajectory and momentum. Part of it is the ability to make effective use of discourse. There have been times where the indigenous movements have made very good use of the nationalist discourse in order to mobilize people. The nationalist discourse hasn’t been as effective at making structural changes, or addressing class based issues. One of the reasons why Ecuador’s indigenous movements have been so successful is because they are able to intersect issues of racial discrimination with class oppression. Weaving together multiple issues in a way that imagines another world and that addresses oppression on a variety of levels. So, there’s a series of practical, personal, ideological, and economic conditions that converge and lead to these indigenous organizations.
PG: How have Correa’s policies impacted the urban poor and how have they impacted the rural or indigenous poor?
MB: For the urban poor Correa’s policies have been the best things. I would say Correa is the best president that Ecuador has ever had. In ways that says more about the other presidents than about Correa. In the history of the world I would say there are very few presidents that have made really positive contributions to their societies. So, it’s important to understand Correa’s policies in this context. A lot of Correa’s policies have resulted in demonstrable improvements for the urban poor. There are a couple criticisms though. One is that there is human development bond, which is like welfare payments. This was recently increased form $35 dollars a month to $50. The social movement-left says: this is nothing more than neoliberalism. This is just handouts rather than dealing with structural problems in society. These types of polices play really well in terms of bringing the urban poor into Correa’s coalition. The social movement-left criticizes this as being a populist strategy. This is a broader theme in Latin America where there is historically a lot of tension between populists and Marxists. The populists are appealing to the economic interests of the population that seemingly should provide the base of support for a Marxist class based movement. But, the populists use this rhetoric to supplant this. In Ecuador this has historically been a problem. Correa has been far better about this than past populists at using this discourse, these handouts, and these policies in order to mobilize the electoral base. This is in contrast to past presidents never doing anything to actually benefit the people. I think this is some of Correa’s longevity. He actually follows through on welfare payments to the lower classes. While poverty rates, inequality, extreme poverty, illiteracy, all of these socio-economic indicators are moving in very positive directions in terms of the urban poor. But, Correa’s policies are not having that impact among the rural poor. One interpretation is that Correa isn’t interested in the rural poor because they provided the base of support for the indigenous movements. These are his political opponents, so why cater to them. Some people say it’s because of the demographic shift and this is electoral calculation. In Ecuador, as is the rest of the world, is becoming increasingly urbanized, so rural issues like agrarian reform don’t have the electoral importance that they previously had. The most recent numbers I’ve seen indicate that the socio-economic indicators are improving in the countryside, while initially they were going backwards. So, there may have been a lag there.
PG: How have indigenous and general left protests move Correa’s policies to the left and what has been Correa’s response to the protests?
MB: For me this is really a key issue. This is something that indigenous and social movements across Latin America have faced. About 5 years ago the thinking really shifted. If we look back at the neoliberal 90s the social movements always provided the check against neoliberal policies. We see this in Ecuador where these social movements have pulled down governments that were ruling against their class interests. But, the problem is if you pull down a government that ruled against your class interest and you don’t have a positive alternative to implement, then a new neoliberal government comes into place. This is what dragged social movements into the electoral realm. There was a need to create a positive concrete alternative. In the era of guerilla warfare this wasn’t an issue. For instance, in the Cuban revolution they organized a guerilla war and overthrew the government and put themselves in power, but social movements aren’t able to do that because they’re not organized along that type of structure. About 5 years ago there emerged a common slogan in the indigenous movements across the entire continent, which was ‘From Protest to Proposal’. It was this idea that we’re no longer protesting policies we disagree with, but we’re putting forward concrete proposals. That’s been driving this. This has really been frustrated in Ecuador. The social movements have provided checks on implementing policy. If it weren’t for the social movements the Correa administration would be farther right. In that way their results are positive. But, to take an entirely different example there has been languishing in the congress for two years or three years now a law to reform the media system, which would open up more space for community media. But, the legislation never gets passed. This is just one specific example of how implementing legislation like that would really benefit social movements and society in general by making it a more participatory society. The proposal is supposed to divide the media into 3 parts: the private media, state owned media, and community media. The community media, in terms of creating participatory governance is something that Ecuador is really missing and the social movements are pushing for it. This is part of the problem with Correa. He would have to give up control and he’s not willing to give up that type of control over those structures.
PG: Could you talk about the 2010 coup attempt against Correa? Specifically who was responsible for it and to what degree was police benefit reduction really behind it?
MB: This is something that is going to be debated forever because there is contradictory information that comes out. There are different perspectives on what happened on September 30, 2010. It appears that it started as a police protest that got out of hand. One interpretation of why it escalated is that Correa showed up the barracks where the police where protesting and they weren’t expecting that. So, some people blame him for putting democracy at risk. There is a protest and the president goes wading into the middle of it thinking he can calm them down. There is a conspiracy theory that Correa engineered this in order to strengthen his political hand. But, there’s no evidence for that. Though, Correa and the police did come out of this strengthened. The police got what they wanted. One of the main accusations against Correa at that time was that this police benefit reduction was an example of his neoliberal governance. Some of the Maoists in Ecuador made an alliance with the police saying: the police are workers and we’re going to defend their interests as workers. But, the part of the Maoists that came out in support of the police was really criticized by other wings of the social movements. The social movements stated that: historically the police are oppressors and our class enemies and we’re not going to defend them. If given the choice we’ll defend Correa and electoral democracy over repressive aspects of state administrations. I alternate between amused and bothered by how often the September 30 police protest gets talked about more broadly in activist circles. Often, this is simplistically represented as another example of US imperial over-reach into Latin America. The curious thing about that is that throughout this entire process Correa made very warm overtures to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and US President Obama. Apparently, Obama called Correa personally and said: we’re opposed to these moves against your government. On the day of the alleged coup attempt Clinton made a statement strongly supporting Correa. In the run up to the upcoming February 17 election Correa has made statements that ‘Rogue elements in the CIA are conspiring against his government’. This isn’t a direct quote, but the gist of what he said is even though these are rogue elements Barak Obama supports me. This incident simplistically gets filtered into leftist activist circles as the US government opposes Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Which isn’t at all what Correa is saying. It leads to an interesting spin in Ecuador. Those on Correa’s left accuse him of not being sufficiently anti-imperialist or even sufficiently politically conscience of how the US would negotiate against his government. What troubles me is that there is a really ironic situation where the international anti-imperialist-left opposes the Ecuadorian domestic anti-imperialist left, and where the Ecuadorian anti-imperialist left opposes Correa because he’s not sufficiently leftist.
PG: So, in your opinion you don’t think the US had anything to do with the coup attempt?
MB: Rafael Correa is quite clear that he doesn’t think that it is the case that the US president or the US secretary of state was behind or supported the coup attempt. There is a whole academic literature which talks about how Ecuador US relations are more horizontal than they are in say Guatamala for example. This is outside the US sphere of influence and the US doesn’t have strategic interests there. International activists talk about the 2010 coup attempt being payback for throwing out the US from MANTA air force base. I see absolutely no evidence for that being the case. Correa said we’re not renewing the base. The US just left. The US, from what I can tell, recognized Ecuadorian sovereignty. This is not the same as the US leaving Vieques in Puerto Rico for example. We’re in an entirely different part of the world. There’s a different dynamic and different situation. In fact, the MANTA base was on a ten year lease. There are serious questions that when the agreement for the base was signed that it was an illegal treaty entered into by the state of Ecuador. There was a significant segment of the left who argued that the treaty needed to be abrogated on Correa’s part and not just let lapse. They argue that when he came to power he should have said this is an illegal treaty and we need to stop it right now. He was in power for 2 years and 2 months before he let the treaty lapse. The anti-imperialist-left wanted to take a more aggressive stand against the United States because Ecuador was forced to sign this treaty. They believed it was a violation of not only Ecuadorian sovereignty, but of the legal system. In comparison to that position Correa has taken a much more pragmatic or moderate position then what his left opposition wants.
PG: I’ve heard prominent writers on the left say they believed the US was behind the September 30 coup attempt.
MB: I’ve studied Ecuador for a long time and other writers will extract things that they know to be true in other parts of Latin America and apply them to Ecuador without understanding the uniqueness of the Ecuadorian situation. Politically, I agree with these writers and I appreciate their intent. But, if you look at it from an academic prospective it simply doesn’t jive with what we know about Ecuador’s history. There’s a long history here of the US negotiating these types of things with Ecuador. There appears to be a pattern where because Ecuador is a small, insignificant country it can get away with things that larger countries, like Chile, for example, or countries closer to the US, like Guatamala, couldn’t get away with. People end up misunderstanding what’s happening in Ecuador because they’re not familiar with the specifics of the situation in Ecuador.
PG: How do you see Ecuador’s degree of independence from the global financial powers?
MB: That’s a really good question to raise and I think this is why many of us have such ambivalent feelings. Correa has done many, many good things, which is why I said he is the best president Ecuador has ever had. This is particularly true in the area of economic policy. He’s been great. The social movement-left that I work with applauds a lot of these things. For instance, the way Correa has dealt with the issues of debt crisis and increased taxation on oil companies. Perhaps, part of this is logical because Correa is an economist and he’s more capable of negotiating these issues than past presidents were. This is true in terms of establishing autonomous and South looking economic policies. So, on some issues Correa has been a very strong leader. There are questions that I’ve never gotten satisfactory answers to. One of them is: despite Hugo Chavez’ urging, Correa was very slow to join ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas). It was never clear to me why he delayed it for so long and why he did finally join ALBA when he did. Some people guess that this was due to domestic and geopolitical considerations in terms of how best to position himself. Again, this is often a leftist critique of Correa. The left wishes he would more often take principled stances rather than political opportune stands. There is a very important critique to keep in mind of what some people call the ‘ultra-left’, which is what people associate me with, which is that we live in the real world and real life conditions need to be taken into account when making these type of decisions. We can wish that Correa would always make the type of positive policy decisions that he has in these economic realms, but he’s constrained by broader macro conditions. This has always been a problem for the left. Salvador Allende in Chile said that we need to make haste slowly. There’s this idea that if you move too quickly you get over thrown by the oligarchy and if you move to slowly your social movement base gets upset with you and over throws you. Correa is a good politician and so far he’s done a remarkably good job negotiating between those political tensions.
PG: How do you see Latin American integration (things like ALBA) and general movement away from subservience to the US affecting the region and its relationship to the US?
MB: Many people say George W. Bush and the Iraq war was the best thing to ever happen to Latin America because it removed the US’ imperialist gaze and allowed a lot of these autonomous developments to emerge. Ecuador has been a significant player in terms of pushing forward some of these objectives. As I’ve said there’s questions as to why Correa delayed joining ALBA, however in other ways Ecuador has been at the forefront with UNASUR, which isn’t an explicitly left leaning alliance, but which is building a South American alliance separate from the United States. UNASUR is based in Quito right now. With the September 30, 2010 police protest crisis in Ecuador one thing that was a really positive and maturing step of the whole political process was that the United States didn’t step in with a solution. Instead regional groups like UNASUR took the lead and made really clear statements that extra-constitutional changes in government would not be acceptable here. It’s a really positive development that these governments are able to solve their problems on their own. This is not at all incidental that this maturation of international structures has happened under left wing governments rather than pro-US governments.
PG: I wanted to ask you about something you often here about in the US mainstream media and even with groups like Committee to Protect Journalists, which is Correa’s attacks on media freedom. How do you see this?
MB: Personally, I think it’s a false issue. I think it’s a conservative issue. A lot of the social movements are more concerned with economic bread and butter and structural issues. You have this case of this editorialist for El Universo who is now sitting in Miami and claiming political repression. But, having rich people go to Miami and whine about how they’ve been treated just doesn’t gain much sympathy from a social movement-left. I think there’s a real difference between liberals and leftists. Liberals being concerned about individual freedoms, private property, and capitalism. Leftists are concerned about structural issues and how society is put together. This does influence the social movement-left in terms of Correa’s growing authoritarianism and taking political space away from them. This is particularly true if we look at something like community media. But, the international press uses these allegations about media freedom as a battering ram against Ecuador’s left. Last January there was this concerted campaign of the New York Times, and few other major papers in the US, which at almost the same time published editorials against Correa’s alleged crack down on press freedom. It seems to have been just a right wing attack.
PG: Why do you think Correa decided to shelter Julian Assange?
MB: Correa gave asylum to Julian Assange in August of last year and in June of last year he pulled Ecuador out of the school of the Americas, which is now called WHINSEC. When he did it he said: I thought we had done this a long time ago. Coincidentally, these issues played very well with the social movement left. This may be an example of the left successfully pushing Correa left and him doing something more so for principled reasons rather than broader geo-political reasons. There’s little things like that the left should really cheer the Correa administration.
PG: So, you don’t see it as direct antagonism toward the US?
MB: I don’t know. This goes back to the beginnings of Hugo Chavez administration in Venezuela where his bark was much worse than his bite. He would say really antagonistic things against the US, but then never really do anything to follow through. For example, cutting off oil supply to the US, though this has changed a little bit now. The reason I frame it like that is because I don’t know what Correa would have to gain by intentionally antagonizing the US, when at the same time he claims to have such warm relations with Obama and Clinton. This may be all political posturing, but this goes back to September 30. If he’s relying on tacit US and Ecuadorian military support, because those are the two that could most easily remove him from power, other than the social movement left, then I don’t see him having a reason to directly antagonize those power players. So, something like this strikes me as more of a principled stance. There have also been some really strong leftists in the foreign ministry in Ecuador. It might be a result of leftist activists and the foreign ministry trying to push Correa on these types of issues.
PG: Why is there this space in Latin America where through so much of the 20th century even very mildly left leaning governments would be over thrown by a US backed coup?
MB: It goes back to what I said before. Ten years ago George W. Bush was distracted by the Iraq war and that opened the space. Some people who watch international policy and foreign relations much more closely than I do complain about Barack Obama being more of the same and that his administration is not in favor of having this space. So, its obviously not due to any gesture on the part of the Obama administration. Taking a long-term view of history we know empires don’t last forever. I might be wrong, but I’m just assuming that we’re beginning to see the decline of the US empire. It’s no longer hegemonic. During the Cold War some of its actions were held in check by the Soviet Union and non-aligned movements saw that as a positive thing because it created some space for the non-aligned movement. But, even after the end of the cold war, where the US is supposed to be hegemonic we see that it is not hegemonic and that there are significant spaces here. Either we over estimate the imperial reach of the US, or maybe that empire is coming to an end. From my perspective its too early to be clear about what’s happening. But, this is really foundational for world history. It’s really a watershed moment and these are dramatic shifts in politics.
PG: So, Correa is expected to win the upcoming election on February 17. How do you see his policies changing and do you think his focus will be?
MB: I don’t know. I don’t do a good job at forecasting the future. One quick observation that I think is worth keeping in mind is that everybody assumes that Correa will win the election. So, maybe he will. A bigger concern is whether he is going to win control over the congress and if he doesn’t win control who is going to have that balance of seats. If people to his left win a controlling majority they will push Correa to the left. If conservatives win a majority in congress Correa will be forced to compromise with them and they will push his policies to the right. There is this pattern in Ecuador of people splitting their tickets, specifically in conservative areas. That means voting for Correa, the populist at the top of the ticket and voting for right wing parties farther down. That’s what’s been happening over the last couple years. I think that’s a real danger. The presidency is just one position and he may have to negotiate power with other power brokers. I think that is a real concern because if we’re going to have a revolution it needs to be thorough and through all sectors of society. That seems to be where the limitations are. I think that’s an issue of concern.