A series of interviews that Ecuadorreview will do with Ecuador’s main political leaders.
You have also been accused by the government of promoting a coup. Do you want President Correa to leave office before his term ends in May 2017?
I have been clear in saying that there is a conspirator against the government of Rafael Correa; and that conspirator is called Rafael Correa. In his Message to the Nation of 24 May 2015, he said that he favors confrontational democracy. He proposed a war to the Ecuadorian society and, since then, society has been living in an atmosphere of fearful tension.
Guillermo Lasso is a self-taught man. Entrepreneur, former banker, main shareholder of Banco de Guayaquil, he ran for the presidency of Ecuador in 2013 and came second. Rafael Correa won in the first round. Currently, Lasso is the leader of the CREO party and, according to polls, the best option of the opposition. Rafael Correa will have been, in 2017, in power for a decade.
And why would Correa conspire against himself?
Rafael Correa is conspiring against his own government because he wants to fall, he wants an interruption of the constitutional order.
For what purpose?
He knows that because he is a bad administrator he has led Ecuador to an economic crisis from which -in his view – it will be very hard to recover. He wants someone to overthrow him so he can leave Ecuador and say, as a victim: they threw me out; they did not let me finish. He doesn’t know how to fix the economic problem he has created. I defend, therefore, President Correa’s right to rule until 24 May 2017 as strongly as I oppose his bad public policies.
The street protests in Ecuador converge in a slogan: “Out, Correa, out!” How do you interpret this?
I do not agree with that phrase. I agree with institutional stability, with respect for the constitutional period. I am of the mind to require Correa to fix the problem of the Ecuadorian economy. And if he does not fix it, let the history books record Correa’s both faces in this crisis that he created.
But what makes you think that Correa’s mandate will end in 2017 and will not go on until 2021?
I was the first to go out in public saying that we cannot allow indefinite reelection. The CREO movement and I promoted the collective “Compromiso Ecuador” (Commitment to Ecuador), which has brought together more than one hundred organizations and political actors, and opposes indefinite reelection. We want the people to decide at the polls whether they want or not to amend the Constitution. We have been out on the streets and now 82% of the people agree with the Referendum.
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But the president doesn’t actually listen to what the polls say. What leads you to think that he will now change?
No, the president will not listen. Nor will he listen when it comes to the Inheritance Law or the Surplus Value Law. He believes that if he rectifies wrong decisions he will be pleasing me and other actors in Ecuadorian politics. He does not want to acknowledge that the Ecuadorian people are tired of his abusive policies on economic and also political issues.
If the President does not listen, what do you think should be the opposition’s position until 2017?
I am a democrat. And with the same conviction that I say that Correa should govern until May 2017, I say that I will oppose his desire to reform the Constitution to stay in power indefinitely. That is not democratic. That infringes an essential value as is the alternation in power. I must acknowledge that within this framework, the struggle is very hard because Correa does not respect democratic principles. Dialogue is a first step, the search for agreements that one should, at a certain time, give up something for the benefit of a higher purpose, which is social peace.
Regarding this, the president will say that he has just called for dialogue and that he has ordered his ministers to debate in their sectors.
That is a false dialogue because at the same time as he calls for dialogue, he listens to private conversations and intercepts the opposition’s emails. Instead of rectifying, he uses verbal violence and violent attitudes.
Correa understands dialogue as a conversation with a person who will do as he wants. That is not dialogue.
In that case, will you not participate?
No, how will I participate if the president does not accept my invitation to debate? I proposed a debate with eight very specific points that are currently affecting the Ecuadorian people. They are the following: having taken away the teachers’ severance fund. Eliminating the government’s obligation to contribute 40% to retirement pensions. Putting a limit on profit sharing for private employees. The Law that affects the Galapagos, reducing wages on an island where the cost of living is higher than on the continent. Induction cookers: how is it possible that he can create a tax of 100% on gas cookers? How is it possible that he and his one hundred members of the Assembly decide, through constitutional amendments, changes that should be consulted with the people?
You acknowledge that the president neither listens nor changes. The question remains: What do you propose to do?
We must fight, we must insist. Can you imagine Nelson Mandela saying that he disagreed with apartheid, that it was impossible to live with apartheid but as he had already said this once, he could not say it ten times? No, he devoted himself to fight.
What does it mean, in your case, fighting against ‘correísmo’ right now?
Fighting means what I say in this interview. It means talking in every media outlet that will allow me about the Ecuadorian society’s views on Correa’s abuses against democracy, against the Ecuadorian family, against freedom. It also means going out on the streets, as I have done. And we will continue going out because the Constitution recognizes the existence of an opposition and says that this opposition cannot be persecuted, it cannot be harassed, which is what Correa does with me and all those of us who see things in a different way than him.
The opposition is very divided. On the streets, bands of protesters have demanded unity. What is your answer?
Unity is a value, not an end in itself. At this time unity should enable us to recover the neutrality of the court to rescue democracy. A democracy that is not the property of one person or of a political project. Once we recover democracy and the court is neutral, everyone should be able to play in the team of their choice, with the ideas they want to defend and stand in free elections.
I have been promoting that kind of unity since the creation of “Compromiso Ecuador”, to defend the fact that the people should be the ones to decide at the polls whether they want indefinite reelection. There is another unity that was created with an electoral purpose for 2017. To them I said that democracy must be defended now because it is now that it is in danger.
But do you still think that the opposition’s unity will only be realized in your collective, “Compromiso Ecuador”?
No, but I would like to finish my answer. The mayors of Guayaquil and Quito and the prefect of Azuay got together as a unit for electoral purposes for 2017. They said as much. They did not invite me; they must have their reasons. It is evident that they do not want me to be part of that unit. I am in favor of unity and I do not exclude anyone. But there is an invitation that excludes me, as well as other Ecuadorians.
Some think that you want unity but on the condition that others submit to your candidacy for the presidency in 2017.
Three weeks ago I called for the unity of all the country’s political sectors and I referred by name to the political actors of the Cuenca unit. I said we should get together and talk about unity, not for electoral purposes but to defend democracy now, the Ecuadorian family that is being beaten and the social peace that has been lost. That should concern us all at this time.
Have you got a reply?
Not one person has responded. I spoke personally with the mayor of Quito and even he has not responded to my proposal.
What is the agenda of your call?
The same eight points I presented to Correa for a debate. I am in favor of a kind of unity that seeks a way out for the country; not the kind that favors one person. I am in favor of unity around a program that is not drawn up with a single vision. I am in favor of an alliance where no one dominates the rest and seeks to recover democracy and freedom.
Do you believe that groups with parallel agendas should participate in this dialogue: environmentalists, sexual minorities…?
There is space for everyone. The Yasunidos and those social groups who are concerned about the government being in charge of family planning. I do not agree with Enipla. The responsibility for family planning while the children are underage falls on the father and mother. And when they are of legal age, each one must take responsibility for their life. The government should not be the one to say how the Ecuadorian family is managed.
Correa’s problem is that as of 2013, when he won the election and won a majority in the Assembly, he became more arrogant and more full of hatred. Because he has the majority, he believes that he holds the key to Ecuador and he can do whatever he wants. He cannot impose on us, let alone force on us using violence, his personal vision of society.
Some voices in the opposition say that the key point is to oppose changes to the Constitution that the government wants to make as simple amendments in the Assembly...
I agree. The least we should do is unite around the need for a Referendum so that it is the people who decide at the polls whether they want or not Correa’s indefinite abuse. The democratic path today implies promoting a question about indefinite reelection.
Correa proposes the redistribution of wealth when most of Ecuadorians propose the redistribution of power that is now concentrated in a minimum percentage of the population that aims to abuse the vast majority of Ecuadorians.