Ecuador Internacional

Ecuador Without Correa?

Is there a future for Ecuador beyond President Rafael Correa?

Latinvex - Roger F. Noriega 11/11/2015

Foto: César Muñoz/Andes

Foto: César Muñoz/Andes

Since taking office as a maverick outsider nearly nine years ago, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has transformed the country by centralizing economic and political power under his authority and suppressing potential opponents in the private sector, media, and civil society.

He has implemented a costly populist agenda, which has bolstered his popularity—initially tapping increased oil revenue but gradually becoming more dependent on Chinese loans and investments. The steep decline in the price of oil and other commodities has forced Correa to cut spending and to propose tax increases.

As a result, popular unrest has intensified in the last year, testing his popularity just as he decides whether to seek an unprecedented fourth term. Mercurial and belligerent, Correa took power by railing against his country’s old political order— much like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Mimicking Chávez, Correa has waged a controversial battle with independent media and civil society, drawing increasing criticism from the international community for cracking down on freedom of expression; an editorial in the Washington Post in January 2012 branded him “Ecuador’s bully.” Yet, in spite of his irascible behavior and numerous corruption scandals involving members of his family and political inner circle, Correa’s fragmented opposition has yet to coalesce around a significant rival. Recent polls show that Correa’s approval remains at more than 60 percent. Analysts attribute his resilient popularity to the windfall from oil prices earlier in his term, significant growth in the public-sector payroll, and cash transfers to well over one million low-income Ecuadorians. A slowing economy and fiscal deficit will curtail Correa’s ability to shore up support through social spending, so only the depth of Ecuador’s economic crisis will determine his political fate. 

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