—Javier Couso, Universidad Diego Portales
[Editor’s note: This is one of our biweekly I-CONnect columns. Columns, while scholarly in accordance with the tone of the blog and about the same length as a normal blog post, are a bit more “op-ed” in nature than standard posts. For more information about our four columnists for 2017, see here.]
A few weeks ago, on May 24th, Ecuador’s new President, Lenín Moreno, took over from Rafael Correa (who had been in power for over ten years). Although coming from the same political party, ‘Alianza PAIS’, and in spite of fears that Correa would continue to held power from the backstage, the first actions by Moreno suggest that he will be his own self as a President, something which, in turn, might change the dynamic that has characterized Ecuador’s political and constitutional process over the last decade, perhaps even turning away from the illiberal concentration of power around the Executive branch, which was one of the Correa government’s key features.
Of course, it would be a profound mistake to think that the extremely complex social, political and constitutional process experienced by Ecuador since 2007 can be fundamentally altered by the substitution of one individual by another as the head of state but, in this case, there are reasons to believe that the arrival of Moreno to the Presidency might change the dynamics –and even direction— of Ecuador’s experiment with radical democracy.
As observers of the Latin American region know well, soon after his surprising election as President (in 2007), Rafael Correa aligned himself with the so-called ‘Bolivarian’ movement, a regional initiative launched in the mid 2000s by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, which aimed at spreading radical left politics in Latin America. The Bolivarian movement, which included a so-called ‘new constitutionalism’ advocating for the concentration of power around the Executive branch and the curtailment of independent media outlets, reached its peak around 2010, when many Latin Americans felt that the pair liberal constitutionalism/free markets had failed to deliver its promises of freedom and economic well-being.
In the case of Ecuador, the Constitution of 2008 represented an effort by Correa’s government to launch a new era, one in which a corrupted economic and political elite maintained more than a third of the country’s population below the poverty line, while enriching themselves through corruption. The new constitutional practice was unashamedly illiberal with the justification that, in order to confront the large multinational corporations that had traditionally run most aspects of Ecuador’s politics, economics and society, the government had to be given very strong powers.