Protests are growing in Ecuador, where radicals must contend with both the Right and Rafael Correa.
Rafael Correa was first elected president of Ecuador late in 2006, assuming office in 2007. Under his rule, Ecuador has commonly been characterized, together with Bolivia and Venezuela, as representing the harder left within South America’s more general anti-neoliberal “pink tide.”
As early as 2009, however, various ruptures between the government and the social movements that initially enabled Correa’s rise to office — above all the indigenous movement — began to surface. Now, in mid-2015, it appears that those initial ruptures, together with the recent collapse in oil prices, have crystallized into a serious political and economic crisis for the Correa administration.
Alejandra Santillana Ortíz, executive director of the Institute of Ecuadorian Studies in Quito, Ecuador, is a prominent socialist activist in the country, member of the Feminist Collective Las Lorenzas, and author of a number of important sociological articles on the indigenous movement, the contemporary Ecuadorian left, and socialist strategy in contemporary Latin America.
I met up with her in Quito on Wednesday, just before yesterday’s major indigenous march arrived in the capital, and a coordinated “people’s strike” began. We talked about the principal political dynamics at work today.
Tomorrow, an important indigenous march will arrive in Quito as part of what activists are calling an indigenous uprising and people’s strike. How would you characterize these mobilizations? Who are the principal actors? What are the principal demands?
We need to situate the march in a much larger context in order to understand its significance. Over these eight years of the “citizen’s revolution” of Rafael Correa there has been an increasing intensity of social conflict. The facts laid out in systematic studies of social conflict conducted at the Institute of Ecuadorian Studies show that in the neoliberal period, prior to Correa, there was a very high level of sociopolitical mobilization.
This high level of activism diminished in the years of the Constituent Assembly, between 2007 and 2008, that is to say, the opening years of the Correa administration. That initial period appeared to offer the opening of political opportunities and heightened expectations. You could say it was a moment in which people were waiting to see what was possible under the new administration.
But beginning in 2009, accelerating into 2012, and quickening still more rapidly between 2012 and today, the levels of social mobilization have increased. This high incidence of mobilization is precisely a response to the economic model and political project carried out by the government of Correa’s Alianza País (AP). It also has to do with the gradual recovery of the capacity for self-organization among the principal social organizations of this country over the last eight years.
One thing to emphasize is that over these years under Correa, a constitutive part of the project of Alianza País — not something marginal its political-economic model — has been the systematic criminalization of social protest, the control of popular organizations, and the delegitimation of independent social mobilization.