Amazon Region / Ecuador / Ecuador Economy / Ecuador Politics / President Correa / View from the Roof

A View From the Roof: Correa Wins Election! Does It Mean War in the Amazon? GMOs?

Ecuador’s President Correa again won the presidency in the country’s recent election.  In addition, his party won more than a 2/3 majority in the national congress. This means that he now has the power to change the constitution without a national vote. Essentially, he has no opposition that matters.

People are beginning to wonder about the implications of this unlimited power.  Two serious conflicts already loom on the horizon as a result of Correa’s desire to again alter the path Ecuador will follow.  One is a possible war in the Amazon.  Another could mean the wholesale introduction of GMO’s into the country.

As was expected, Correa won the election handily, with more than 57% of the vote.  His closest rival gained only 24%.  It makes me wonder if some of the multitude of other candidates got any votes at all other than from family and friends.

“This victory is yours. It belongs to our families, to our wives, to our friends, our neighbors, the entire nation,” Correa said. “We are only here to serve you.  Nothing for us.  Everything for you, a people who have become dignified in being free.”

Having lived in Ecuador under Correa’s rule for more than 6 years, I have seen many changes as a direct result of his presidency.   The country is booming economically, unemployment is way down, the poverty level is greatly reduced and the country’s infrastructure is so much better than it was in 2006 that I almost feel as if I’m living in a different country.

Yet all of this investment requires money.  And here is where I begin to get nervous. For in addition to having an incredibly beautiful country with a young, energetic population, Ecuador has an abundance of natural resources–oil, gold, copper, other  minerals, water, hydroelectricity and rich farmland.

One of the reasons Ecuador is prospering while much of the world continues to wallow in recession is because early on in his presidency Correa succeeded in renegotiating Ecuador’s cut of the oil profits to a much higher level. Had he not had the moxie to accomplish this feat against the oil companies, the country would not have prospered nearly so much due to the higher oil prices of the last few years.   Oil production is down as fewer companies are willing to play, but revenues are much higher, and more oil is being held in the ground for the future.

Correa also renegotiated the country’s international $3.2 billion debt, which he said was acquired illegally by his predecessors, and ended up paying 30 cents on the dollar.  Following the debt and oil renegotiations, Correa began a massive stimulus through infrastructure construction–new highways, bridges, schools and hospitals, as well as spending on social programs to benefit the poor.   He has also increased the minimum wage three times.

Right now, Ecuador has one of the lowest debt-to-GNP ratios in the world.  Much of the world press refers to this action on the debt as a default.  Technically, it was a default on a debt that Correa said was entered into illegally.  But after the default, Correa went back and renegotiated the 30% repayment which has been paid off.  He now does not borrow from the IMF or the World bank.


Instead, he has a $3.4billion debt with China at commercial rates.  In turn, China is making much more investment in the country.  While others say this was a failure to live up to obligations, I prefer to see it in terms that he beat the world bankers at their own game, and the country is prospering from it.

Here’s a great video by Bill Black, as associate professor of Economics at the University of Missouri.  Black discusses all of the things that Correa has done right for his country economically.

Yet in his appetite to gain more money, it appears on the surface that Correa is willing to sell his soul to multinational resource exploitation corporations at the expense of the very heart of Ecuador itself—the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous peoples.

Correa did make a bold initiative to the United Nations when he said he would sign an agreement to leave the oil under Yasuni National Reserve in the ground, if the world would pay Ecuador $3.5 billion, which is about half of the value of the oil that is in the ground.

The Yasuni National Reserve is one of the most pristine and bio-diverse regions in the world.  It has more species of trees (644) in one hectare of land than exist in all of North America.  However, as of this writing, only $300 million has been committed or pledged by other countries.   The world may talk about saving the rainforest, but when it comes to putting the money up to do so, the world is strangely quiet.

In fact, two groups of indigenous living in the Amazon have vowed to fight to the death to protect their ancestral homeland.   The Shuar, a fierce people, only one or two generations away from their headhunter past, live near the Ecuador-Peru border.  They are  essentially declaring war on Canadian and Chinese companies who have been granted mining rights, and the government itself.  They have vowed to fight to the last person of their 8,000-strong tribe in order to prevent exploitation of gold and copper and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of tropical rainforest which is their ancestral homeland.

Likewise, the 400 member strong Kichwa tribe who live near the Yasuni National park have also said they will fight if needed to preserve the jungle.

In  2010, Linda and I attended a showing of the movie “Avatar” in Quito.  We watched as several indigenous from the Amazon filed into the movie in full ceremonial headdresses.  They watched the natives in the movie fight to protect their forest and their way of life.    Read Linda’s blog post here.

Now, in 2013, it appears that the mythical battle in Avatar is going to be played out in real life in the Ecuadorian Amazon.


The website Salon recently published an excellent, well-researched article about the confrontation shaping up in the jungle.   It’s entitled, “To get the gold, they will have to kill every one of us.” The next few years  will tell the story of whether the incredible treasure that is the Ecuadorian rainforest will be saved, or if it will be opened to satisfy the oil-guzzling addictions of the modern world.

Another item that I find troublesome is that in an interview with El Comercio, Correa said he wants to change the Constitution of Ecuador to allow the use and distribution of transgenic seeds (GMOs).

GMOs are a disaster in the making.  Already, super weeds resistant to Monsanto’s Round Up are spreading around the globe, and by most accounts, the increased production promised by GMOs area fantasy. Hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers in India have committed suicide because GMO economics have not allowed them to pay their bills and support their families.

My hope is that as the economic consequences of GMOs become more obvious, Correa will turn away from them.  Time will tell if I am living in fantasy land or not.

One of the highlights of the new Constitution written and approved by the Ecuadorian people in 2008 was the idea that Mother Nature (Pachamama) had rights equivalent to any natural person. It was a beautiful statement that gained wide applause and recognition around the world.  It would be a shame to see Correa back down on that commitment.

The new assembly takes office in May of this year.  We do not have long to wait to see what happens to a very popular politician when he assumes nearly unlimited power, and to the country that in the short term has become the environmental darling of the world.

And that’s today’s, View from the Roof.

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks for the very informative article. I was born in Ecuador, although I have lived in California now most of my life. I’ve been considering returning to Ecuador for my (and my wife’s) retirement.

    My wife and I were active participants in the attempt to pass Proposition 37 (labeling GMOs) here in California, so the news that Correa may trample on the Ecuadorian constitution and open the gates to let the likes of Monsanto in to destroy the diversity of crops and endanger the health of ecuadorians is really bad news to hear. I could be the game changer for us in deciding whether to move to Ecuador or not.

  2. Wow,

    Great Blog post. Very Balanced. I am looking to semi-retire to a warm country (Latin America) in a few years. It will be interesting to see what happens with social democracy in Ecuador and the other Latin American countries as the globe switches more to clean green technologies and becomes less dependent on oil. Looking forward to reading more of you.

    Thanks – from Rainy Vancouver Canada.

  3. Greetings

    This somber news of snuggling up to industrial false food giants and GMO is indeed disheartening. One look at the physical health of Americans who consume the “typical” grain/sugar/soy rich American diet should be enough to discourage any reasonable person from considering false foods.

    Grains are to blame for much of our obesity, and soy is contributory to so many disorders it’s shocking that it can be considered healthy by so many.

    Even organic should be avoided.

    Learn more.

    http://www.natural-health-home-remedies/obesity.html
    http://www.natural-health-home-remedies.com/soy.html

    I believe that there aren’t large enough tracks of land in Ecuador, such as those found in Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Brazil that the the Monsanto Mafia will be attracted…….

    Blessings

    Toni

  4. Gary – visiting Ecuador has been on my bucket list for years. I enjoy receiving your emails and your blog posts. This one is exceptional. There is a balance and objectivity that I wish journalists would strive for here in the states.

    Keep up the good work.

    Reid

  5. Hola, Amigo:

    Thank you for posting the link to the Salon article, which is the single most spot-on analysis of that …… by the name of Rafael Correa that I have ever read. It is way past time that folks start learning the truth about this person and his horrendous environmental record. That “save-the-monkeys” crap in the constitution was nothing but a cheap — and SUCCESSFUL — ploy to get the “greenies” off his back, while he plowed ahead with his plans to rape and pillage the Amazon rainforest (and everybody in it), and sell the goods to China. All that crap about “leaving the oil in the ground in Yasuni…” It is a NATIONAL PARK, for Chrissake! He has already cut it in half to sell the other half to China. For more along these lines, please click on the above link from my website, Humptydumptytribe, on Youtube. Of course, as I state in that video, it would have made ZERO difference who won the election, as anyone else would have done the same thing as Correa is ramping up to do.

    — Hambone Littletail, cobbler chef

  6. I am glad that I took the time to read your opinions and observations. My wife and I are have come to a crossroads over the current direction of the United States. We are considering Ecuador as a strong retirement candidate. The term retirement is a misnomer though. We have no intention of truly retiring.

    My wife and I are Civil Libertarians and we are unsure of how Libertarianism might be viewed in Ecuador. One salient point to be made is that if Mr. Correa is sincere in his desire to improve the Ecuadorian economy and thereby help his people evolve as a free an independent thinking people…the people themselves must be empowered with the latitude of making personal choices about themselves and their government. An informed public is the best defense against tyranny. It remains to be seen if Mr. Correa can make the correct political and socio-economic decisions going forward. I have my doubts.

    Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness should be the credo of every living being on this planet. Anything else is tyranny.
    No nation state can convey this right without the full participation of its people to achieve this right.

    V/r

    MS

  7. Mitri Janho says:

    No doubt Ecuador has a very good future and Correa is the one to thank.

    Correa has proposed to the world a system that allows all countries to participate in the protection of the disappearing global shield. His system consisted of the creation of a pollution “tax” that every country would pay to a a global fund. This tax would be in proportion to the degree of pollution emanating from that country. The money from that tax would be then distributed to the non-polluting countries following certain guidelines for proportionality. Sounds logical ? Yes, but no one was interested.

    Now Correa is talking about introducing GMOs and everybody is yelling Rape !

    With all his wisdom, has Correa gone crazy ? or is the fox in him simply re-opening the negotiations for his project again ? It is good that public opinion jumps at every alarming headline. Partly, this helps him get the attention he wants.

    Just don’t condemn the man for doing what is good for his country. Try to look at both sides of the coin.

    Mr. President, I salute you.

    • Hi Mitri,

      It’s all about motives, isn’t it? And without being able to read the man’s mind, we cannot know yet what President Correa has in mind. I also have a great respect for what the President has accomplished. I am particularly pleased at the asylum he gave Assange. This shows me that the man has principles, as well as the courage of his convictions. Only time will tell if his motives regarding Yasuni, Amazon mining, and GMO’s are honorable. I believe he has the capability to be a great leader for the world. Whether he will squander that potential remains to be seen.