Mac Margolis is enthusiastic,
Ecuador’s Voters Turn Back Latin America’s Pink Tide
So 10 million Ecuadoreans will have a second go at the polls in a runoff April 2. Suddenly, the whiff of competitive democracy in this patch of the Andes, where so-called Bolivarian socialists once called the shots, has voters in a lather. They streamed by the thousands into Quito this week to stand vigil as the National Electoral Council inexplicably drip-fed its tally.
Outside observers saw no foul play in the delay, but the anxiety was understandable. For the last decade, after all, this small and mostly poor Andean nation has lived in the shadow of Rafael Correa, a headstrong populist who ruled with one hand on the balcony and the other on the oil drum. Courting the poor, feeding the bureaucracy, bullying critics and hushing the media — all of these were part of the palace script. The Ecuadoran media watchdog Fundamedios documented 981 attacks on journalists over the last two years. (Correa’s response: Try to dissolve Fundamedios.) And if elections weren’t quite rigged, their rules were crafted to assure three-time President Correa and his ruling Alianza Pais coalition the upper hand.
More importantly, it reflects economic disasters,
In fact, Correa’s errors were merely masked by plenty, including a windfall in oil revenues, which he splashed on social programs and the bottomless bureaucracy. His aura dimmed with the end of the commodities boom, when the slump in oil prices led the way into deep recession in 2016, with only modest growth projected for this year. If once Correa could thumb his nose at foreign creditors — he defaulted on $3.2 billion in sovereign bonds in 2008 — the downturn has forced his hand. Fitch Ratings reported that Ecuador needs some $10.3 billion this year to close its deficits. In five years, the country’s debt burden has swelled from 18 percent of gross domestic product to 40 percent today, Fitch said in a client note on Feb. 14. That’s a hole not even lavish Chinese loans can cover.
I’m cautiously optimistic on the elections, in a “live to fight another day” way.