Lula Watch: Focusing on the Latin American Left – Vol.4 – No.3

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Ecuador’s Dilemma: President-elect Correa to Decide Between “Evo-Chavism” and “Ortega-Lulism?”

Ecuador’s President-elect Rafael Correa will be stepping on eggshells to avoid irritating centrists whose votes he managed to secure with a last-minute makeover in the likeness of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The move gave him the victory with a comfortable margin.

Mr. Correa is a University of Illinois-educated economist but at the same time an avowed admirer of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and an old time militant in the “Catholic left.”

It is the convergence of these contradictory positions that enables him to show himself a radical at times and a moderate when necessary. After losing the first round of the presidential elections because of his radical stance in favor of “twenty-first century socialism” – one of Chavez’ favorite slogans – Mr. Correa made some last-minute cosmetic changes by distancing himself from his ideological mentor and invoking God and religion in his speeches.

Thus, he managed to overcome his bad showing during the first round and work a political “miracle” by defeating his opponent with a comfortable margin.

Closeness to Hugo Chavez had already hurt two failed candidates in Latin America: Mr. Lopez Obrador in Mexico and Mr. Ollanta Humala in Peru. Mr. Correa learned his lesson and adapted himself to the smiling and peace-loving formulas of Sandinista Daniel Ortega, who won in Nicaragua, and the “peace and love” neo-populism of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was reelected in Brazil.

Ecuador’s new president will have to move forward very carefully to please the center and reassure the right even as he asks them to “give in a little so as not to lose all” to placate the demands of his radical leftist base.

Discreetly, Mr. Correa may pave the way for leftists, Indigenous movements and radical ecologists to occupy places left vacant by the fall from grace of the old political class. These newly empowered groups may also serve as political pressure groups to eke yet more concessions from the center.

Ecuador is a country with a recent history of instability and socio-political disintegration. It has seen seven presidents in the last ten years. Mr. Correa is faced with the dilemma of choosing between the “Evo-Chavist” model that favors a quick yet risky jolt to the left and the “Ortega-Lulist” model with its slower, gradual and safer move to the left largely based on the strategies of leftist ideologue Antonio Gramsci.

As in Bolivia, the new president will be convening a Constituent Assembly. This could well be his first decisive test in office.

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