Ecuador Internacional

Regimes in Ecuador and Cuba have a lot in common

Sun Sentinel - Guillermo I. Martinez 12/02/2015

Although the way they go about doing things is different, Cuba's communist regime has much in common with Rafael Correa, Ecuador's populist president.

In both cases, the regimes in power have made it obvious they consider the executive power their own personal fiefdom. The Castro brothers — first Fidel and now Raúl — have been governing for more than 55 years. Correa in Ecuador was first elected in 2006 and since then, has been re-elected twice.

Raúl Castro, 83 announced in 2013 that he would retire in 2018. Correa has not said when he will retire, nor does it appear he has any intention of quitting any time soon.

Both Cuba and Ecuador have a similar government. Cuba is a true totalitarian Communist regime. Correa has done his best to prove his is a democratic regime — having been elected three times. But to a lesser degree Ecuador is rapidly becoming its own version of a socialist dictatorship.

Neither country accepts criticism. In Cuba there is no free press. In Ecuador the media is tightly controlled by the government.

Both presidents despise the United States. Both desperately need foreign investment, but neither is prepared to adopt laws that would make investment attractive to foreign investors.

Both governments love American tourists — the kind that brings green dollars to their economy and do little to grow internal opposition. And Ecuador and Cuba depend heavily on the money those who have left the country send their friends and relatives back home.

Cuba is counting on President Obama's generosity to increase its tourist revenue as well as the amount of money Cubans in the United States can send back home. Ecuador carefully has cultivated the remittances from its citizens' abroad, and now is seeking to grow its tourist industry.

Two weeks ago Ecuador paid $4.5 million for a 30 second commercial in the Super Bowl. The slick commercial does a quick overview of the many tourist destination that the country has — from the unique Galapagos Islands, to Cuenca and the capital city of Quito.

If President Obama has his way, American citizens will soon be able to visit Cuba without first seeking a license to travel to the island. Cuban-Americans have been able to travel with limited restrictions for years now.

Ecuador's ad in the Super Bowl shows Correa also knows the benefits tourism brings to a country. They come to see the country's many beautiful sights, and they leave many dollars behind.

Cuba eradicated foreign investment since the early years of the revolution — large foreign and private businesses were expropriated and have not been allowed to return. Ecuador is doing the same thing, albeit more slowly. Cuba expelled foreign companies. Ecuador has done the same, but now wants some to pay for the "ecological damage" the oil companies did when they discovered black gold in the eastern Amazon jungles.

Cuba was satisfied with taking away the properties and paying nothing for them. Back in the early 1960s, the American properties expropriated were valued at a little over $1.1 billion. In today's dollars, that is more than $7 billion. The United States wants Cuba to pay for the expropriated properties while Cuba says it wants the United States to pay Cuba for the damage caused by the half-century old economic embargo.

Correa and Ecuador are approaching the issue in a different way. Correa wants Chevron to pay for the ecological damages it says the company — and its predecessor Texaco — caused in exploring for oil. It is unlikely that Ecuador would win in any international court.

Cuba hopes Obama makes it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. Ecuador and Correa have to work for it. That is why they spent the millions in producing and airing the Super Bowl ad hoping this will draw more American tourists. Ecuador needs it now more than ever since the price of its oil has dropped to less than $50 a barrel.

In both cases American companies are unwelcome. The press, both foreign and domestic, must be monitored closely. Cuba doesn't permit organized internal dissent. Ecuador is more discreet about it. American dollars, however, are still welcomed by both.

Guillermo I. Martínez lives in South Florida. His email is 

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