Persecution of the left in recent years helped make a neoliberal banker president in Ecuador

Two indigenous people looking out over a city in Ecuador

Neoliberal banker Guillermo Lasso won Ecuador’s recent presidential election. But just how much did the persecution of the left in recent years contribute to his victory?

Phoenix Media Co-op asked independent journalist and Ecuador expert Joe Emersberger about two issues which played a part in helping Lasso to beat his left-leaning opponent Andrés Arauz: the persecution of the left in the last four years, and a ‘null vote’ campaign (led by controversial politician Yaku Pérez). Emersberger insisted that the outgoing government did its best to weaken supporters of popular centre-left leader Rafael Correa. And he said it was this hostile environment that really laid the groundwork for Lasso’s victory, stressing that:

Without the persecution, the vilification, and the criminalisation of… Correa’s movement the last four years, that call for a null vote – all that stuff doesn’t work.

He added:

It’s not just a matter of the media being one-sided and saying bad things about them for four years… It’s throwing them in jail, [Correa ally] Jorge Glas in jail… parading them round in handcuffs, bombarding people with information that’s just portraying them as corrupt. And really, them having no way to answer back.

During Correa’s time in power (2007-2017), on the other hand:

He was able to answer the attacks in the media. He was able to also tangibly improve people’s lives. So that nullified the effect of that acrimony [with people hostile to him].

Emersberger continued by speaking about how the government of Lenín Moreno (2017-2021) essentially made Correa and his supporters “a partyless movement”, with Arauz struggling to even get on the ballot in this year’s elections.

‘Lawfare’ against the left from 2017 to 2021

Looking at examples of the left’s persecution in recent years, Emersberger outlined “the big one that nobody talks about”. This was the controversial imprisonment of Moreno’s vice-president Jorge Glas. Moreno originally rode on the wave of Correa’s popularity to get into power, before then making a U-turn and implementing a right-wing agenda. And Glas’s persecution, Emersberger stressed:

stems from the fact that [he] basically blew the whistle on Moreno and what he did

And the ‘lawfare‘ efforts – authorities manipulating legal tools and institutions to weaken the left – “snowballed from there”.

Emersberger called on left-wingers outside Ecuador to talk more about Glas in particular, emphasising that:

his whole conviction was… easily just as shady and flimsy as Lula’s [in Brazil]. And this is the tactic regionally that the right in Latin America has decided on… Through its media, through pressuring judges, through all sorts of dirty tricks, to just basically disqualify and imprison, if they can, popular left-wing leaders to… decapitate the leadership.

Ahead of the 2021 election, for example, Correa was actually planning to be Arauz’s running mate. But Moreno’s government stopped this by convicting Correa and even “preventing Arauz from using Correa’s voice or image in his campaign spots”. Emersberger concluded:

The more they can get away with, the easier it is for them to keep adding these electoral conditions that are totally lopsided.

Main article image via Diego Delso