|Interview with Alberto Acosta: The "Citizen Revolution", the Extractive Model and the Left Critiques|
|Written by Franck Gaudichaud, Translation by Matilda Villarraga|
|Tuesday, 19 February 2013 12:00|
Source: Revista Viento Sur
F. Gaudichaud: Alberto, we are in the national electoral political process in Ecuador, for the presidential elections to be held next February 2013. You have been a leading figure of Alianza País, Assemblyman Minister, President of the Constituent Assembly, and now you appear as head of a leftist opposition candidacy / 2 to the government of President Rafael Correa. What has happened? How do you explain this situation and your own personal political journey?
A. Acosta: At present, the government of Rafael Correa is similar to a bad bus driver ... the kind that puts directional left when it actually turns right.
Correa's government is no longer a leftist government, much less revolutionary and even less of ' the citizens'. This is a government that lost its compass in the way and that as the maximum expression of the contradiction, now seeks to destroy one of the greatest achievements of this process: the Montecristi Constitution, approved by a large majority of the people of Ecuador in September 2008. In this respect it should be noted that violations of the Constitution of Ecuador by the Government of President Correa are multiple and could spend hours narrating them.
But at the international level and within the ranks of a large part of the global left, he is described as a progressive, consistent government, in action, a reformer. The government of the "citizen revolution" appears as a government of social change, which could be described as type "posneoliberal", and it is true - according to what I have seen here in Quito and in the rest of the country - that concrete progress has been made in several areas: progressive tax changes, real social reforms, public plans aimed at the poorest sectors, large infrastructure construction plans, especially in areas neglected so far (part of the coast or the Amazon)…
The reforms that you reference are true. And if we were comparing the government of Correa with the previous governments, we arrive at the conclusion that this is a better government than we have had before, which by the way were so bad that this comparison is, in itself, almost an insult. . If you ask me if the Correa government is better than Gustavo Noboa, the Lucio Gutierrez or other styles of the time, I'll say so, but I'll ask: what is the merit that it has? The people who committed themselves with the proposal of change that originally was proposing the project of Alliance Country, we did not want only a better government, we wanted a government that was transforming the structures of the country, which does a real democratic revolution based on the civil participation. The Unit Plurinacional of the Left sides at present raises a government in which decisions are made democratically, participative, agreed upon, and not a government with a selfish, authoritarian style or caudillesco, which is what we have now.
It is read often in academic magazines and under the pen of some authors of the critical left side to Correa, that this government would have “authoritarian features ”. In what sense is it really justified to affirm that, if the “citizen revolution” seems to be, above all, a democratic process, it has even opened some instances of consultation of the population?
True, there have been many elections and referendums in this period, but elections do not guarantee democracy. Remember that often tyrants and dictators resorted to elections and referendums and resorted to this type of institutional legitimation. Therefore, and far from questioning the processes of vote led by the citizenship in Ecuador, I say that democracy understood this way, then, would have to evaluate also if the dissents have the same access to inform to the citizenship about the positions that the government has, if the use of the device of the State for electoral campaigns on the part of the party of government is not a deslegitimación of the process, etc.Our commitment goes beyond representative democracy and plebiscites, where the tools of the State are used disproportionately to intoxicate the information intended for the citizens. To be honest: nowhere in this Government there are already real spaces of decision-making together with citizenship. That is why we call for a radical democracy.
You could call me Utopian, but if you lived here all year, you would see that the government propaganda is a farce and, as it was theorized many years ago by the antifascist thinkers Frankfort School as Adorno or Horkheimer, "propaganda manipulates men; to shout 'freedom' is self-contradictory." In summary, the falsehood is inseparable from the propaganda. It is precisely this situation that allows not many of the constitutional rights to be respected even the most basic. Be it the right to work or the right to resistance, both recognized in our Constitution.
To give a couple of examples regarding the violation of the right to work, I can make reference to the issuance of a Presidential Decree 813, which establishes "the purchase of mandatory resignations" in the public service, which enabled a perverse logic of layoffs that has left thousands of officials outside the public service and that will continue to serve as a tool to lay off more workers. Not even the neoliberals dared to proceed with untimely dismissals to civil servants this way. Similarly, President Correa, more than a year ago, vetoed the legislation of wholesaler retailer, which guaranteed all retailers -who are the majority in the country-, social security and other benefits, while the government and their municipal branches continue pursuing informal workers in the streets and seizing the products they sell, against what the Constitution mandates. With regard to the scope of the dissidence, today there are more than two hundred popular leaders on the banks of the courts, accused even of "sabotage" and "terrorism", using laws of the era of the oligarchical governments, in a country where there is no terrorism. The right of resistance has been outlawed and in Ecuadorian prisons there are more than one dozen of young people arrested without legal justification. Elements such as I have described show that we no longer speak of a revolutionary government, I would dare say not even leftist.
About what revolution are we speaking? Rights linked to the autonomy of local governments and decentralization are also violated systematically. We are absolutely in agreement with the "return of the State" after this would be reduced to its minimum expression following almost three decades of neoliberalism, but we oppose that such State minimizes the work of the prefectures and municipalities, which at this time, are being crushed and replaced by the central government for a new process of centralism. The Correa government is shaping a Hobbesian state of luck that is attempted against the rights of citizenship: A state model which dictates among other atrocities that citizens are being prohibited to drink a beer or a bottle of wine on Sundays. Do you think that such acts define a state as a revolutionary? To me, I rather get the feeling that they are themselves a government, in essence, quite conservative.
All I have expressed previously is not intended to deny the existence of improvements in certain aspects. But we must keep in mind that this Government has the largest number of tax revenue in the history of the Ecuador; It has indeed benefited in the oil field largely due to increases in the price of crude oil in the international market. This situation has made it possible to sustain a policy of subsidies – but not of transformation – which makes certain social sectors fall in government patronage networks. However, the contradictions are enormous and the concentration of wealth in a few hands is somewhat difficult to justify in a Government that has been six years in office and which describes itself as "revolutionary"; a Government which, moreover, has had the greatest revenues in the entire history of the Republic.
The concentration of sales in my country is such that the decile of the largest companies controlled 96% of sales. The main economic activities are concentrated in few companies: 81% of the non-alcoholic beverage market is in the hands of one company, a company equally against 62% of the beef market, five sugar (with only three owners) controlled 91% of the markets in sugar, two companies 92% of the market of cooking oil, two companies control 76% of the market of hygiene products, we could go on, one by one, productive and commercial sectors. The profits of the one hundred largest groups increased 12 percent between 2010 and 2011, and come to the astronomical figure of $ 36 billion. In this regard, it is worth highlighting that the utilities of the economic groups in the 2007-2011 period grew by 50% more than in the previous five years, i.e. during the neoliberal period…
The data handling is official data from public institutions. If certain political analysts - inside and outside the country--that progressives, themselves seek further to continue defining this Government as a "left-wing" Government, in my view such a situation shows more the deplorable situation in which the left finds itself at the international level.
In fact, in view of the fact that this government wants to expand the oil frontier and force the ‘mega mining’, rather than speaking of "socialism of the XXI Century", what we should be talking about is "extractive 21st century". That is to say, that this government instead of re-turning his national economy into a productive dynamic system, which generates positions of employment and which exports products bravely added, diminishing the dependency on the transnational capital, it continues to be a Government dependent on multinational corporations and supplier of natural resources to alleviate the needs of the world market capitalist. Do you really think that you can think of building socialism, while feeding the global capitalist system with raw materials such as oil and minerals that serve even their needs for speculation?
From the left we have been finding on the fringes of Rafael Correa's Government, we believe that it is essential to have clarity on the need to overcome the extractive, and this has to be done with clear policies. First of all, it is necessary to put our house in order. Ecuador extracts oil with the highest social and environmental cost; we export oil and import derivatives of oil.
In 2011, we imported four billion dollars: this is a lot of money, too much money I would dare to say. Then, we came to the conclusion that a country which extracted oil but has to import derivatives lives an absurdity. We must promote the modernization of refining infrastructure, which involves rehabilitation and repowering of the Esmeraldas State refinery. You will surely need another refinery, it is therefore necessary to review what has been done to the construction of the refinery of the Pacific, seeking, in case that suits national interests their continuation, causing no serious environmental affectations for the wrong venue.This government has spent six years in office, where is the new refinery? Did they already repair the existing refinery in the country – that of Emeralds? The response is not.
Here there is an even more serious problem, since we burn the derivatives of the oil, including the imported ones, to generate electricity. In six years of government they have advanced very slowly the construction works of hydroelectric plants, it remains untapped adequately solar energy, or the geothermal energy; something has been done in the field of wind power. There is no policy of efficient use of energy.
Our first collective action occurs in the context of the popular consultation that was convened by the president in May of 2011. Organizations that today make up the Unit Plurinacional of the Left came together in the initiative "Not this time Mr President", by issuing a very clear message to the citizenship of the country: not follow with your authoritarian practices Mr President, we are against your taking justice assaults against the independence of the powers of the State.
Months later, in August 2011, the Multinational Unity would consolidate around a document of 12 basis points that later served as the basis for the popular mobilization called "March for Life, water, and the dignity of the peoples" of the month of March 2012. The mobilization was a major triumph of social movements, which resisted provocations, repression and setbacks that, as Lucio Gutierrez used to do, were carried out by the Correa government.
We have a very good relationship with the social movements, which are being strongly attacked at this time by the government. They are being persecuted, attacked, they are trying to divide or control them, and this is one of the greatest historical errors of this government. If one of the candidates on the right would win the election in February, which I really hope it does not happen, the weakening of resistance historically staged by social movements will be the saddest legacy will of this government. Does it seem to you explicable that a government which defines itself as revolutionary, instead of strengthening the social organizations and empowering the citizenship, debilitates it?
If we compare the social movement – and in particular indigenous – current with what they have been the big struggles anti neoliberals of the 1990-2000, it is impossible not to underline a certain demobilization and even certain apathy and fragmentation. Several sociologists and intellectuals closer to Correa, say that it is not that the government has debilitated to the social movement, but rather that the struggles reached the end of an ascending cycle, and that also the government with his post neoliberal orientation has answered several of the claims of the collective mobilizations of the previous period, which is quite different.
Do you think has to do with an end-of-cycle that the most challenged leaders of the indigenous movement, as is the case of Antonio Vargas in the Amazon or Miguel Lluco in the Central Highlands are the strongholds of the ruling party within the indigenous movement? Do you think is the result of the end of a cycle that government officials are trying to buy the wills of the indigenous communities, extending checks from the surplus oil tanker? Does it seem to you that it is the end of a cycle that there are more than two hundred social leaders with records opened by sabotage and terrorism in a country where we all know that no armed group exists for years?
Not only do I think that is possible, I think that is essential. Otherwise there will be no future for the country, there will be no future for democracy, for life with dignity, and there will be no "Good living". I say that it is essential because we have to move in an alternative way of organizing society. In Ecuador, and other countries in the region, we are in a moment that could be called a post-neoliberal phase, but not post-capitalist. That must ever get over it very clear to our friends abroad. We are seeing very positive that the government is not bound to the Washington Consensus, but now other conditions imposed from China, especially when it has to do with the credits. The magnitude of this problem would have to see then how much such Chinese credits add up to and what its importance to the country is. This is a very interesting find issue. That is why at the Plurinational Unity we decided to complete and update the audit of the debt and we commit ourselves with the audit of Chinese loans and all the credits that come in the future. Neither is just talk the conditions of this credit, which have to do with oil fields, mineral deposits, large infrastructure works, interest rates very high (one of more than 9% as is the case of the financing of the Sopladora megaproject).
If we review the structure of imports and exports, these changes do not exist; what is more, it allowed the rapid growth of the non-oil trade deficit, which is close to eight billion dollars. The government is now trying to take some action, with which I agree, but it is insufficient, because it does not transform the structure of the economic system, or the pattern of accumulation, something that it’s recognized by the president of the Republic himself. On the other hand, I would point out some areas in which the failure of the Correa government is rotund, for example in the field of production. Not only are there no changes in the structure of production, but the country remains dependent on primary commodities, the dependency logic is maintained, and we still maintain a renting economy in which scarcely it is invested to produce. We remain tied to the conditional ties of foreign capital and of the world market. There is no real effort, in terms of exterior politics and commerce, and neither there is a real and serious proposal in the area of production. The defeat is widespread.