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Does Correa Want to Be the New Chávez?

By: Alexandra Veloz - @Alex_Veloz_V - Mar 6, 2014, 9:45 am

EspañolFollowing the local election results in Ecuador, President Correa announced during his radio show Enlace Ciudadano (episode 363) that he is considering a third term as president in 2017. He said he feels it is his obligation to the people to ensure the Citizen’s Revolution is irreversible. Should he win reelection, Correa — who has been in office since 2007 — would then occupy the presidency of Ecuador for 14 years.

Ironically, just over a month ago, Correa stated in an interview with El Telégrafo that he had no plans to continue as president after his current term concludes. On the contrary, he said, to continue as president would cause the country “great harm, if a single person were so indispensable.”

This isn’t the first time, however, that Correa has suddenly changed his mind. On more than one occasion, he has threatened to resign his position. Now, he “threatens” to seek reelection.

According to Article 144 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, a president may only serve two consecutive four-year terms in office. Therefore, there would first need to be some sort of reform to the constitution for Correa to seek a third term.

The process for changing the constitution, though, would be relatively simple. It can be accomplished in two ways, as indicated in Articles 441 and 442, respectively. In either case, it is up to the president, the National Assembly, or the citizenry to propose a change to the constitution. Correa’s party, PAIS Alliance, holds a comfortable majority in the National Assembly — more than the necessary two thirds — so such an initiative would be easily approved.

Remembering Venezuela

Apart from the initial shock that Correa’s proposal invokes, it also brings to mind the 2009 referendum in Venezuela that abolished term limits.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela sold the idea to the public as a way to expand the people’s right to choose to reelect leaders based on their good deeds. In this way, term limits were abolished and Chávez was able to secure a third term as president in 2012. However, the ruling party’s motives were clear: to create a permanent president and manipulate the democratic process.

As Colum McCann has written, “The repeated lies become history, but they don’t necessarily become the truth.” Most Venezuelans accepted the abolishment of term limits, either based on loyalty to Chávez or the sincere belief in the proposal’s good intentions.

It is possible for the same to happen in Ecuador. Much like Venezuela under Chávez, the ruling party has found its pretext for reelecting Correa: the continuation of “the project.”

The Road to Reelection

The constitution, as adopted by Ecuadorians in 2009, could very easily be changed at the whim of the ruling party to allow for the reelection of Correa, who needs little boost at this point to preside as president indefinitely.

Correa, who at one time railed against the “partidocracia” that ruled over the country and the Supreme Court for many years, now aims to turn his party into a new version of what he once criticized — under the promising banner of “Citizen Revolution.”

Since the conclusion of the local elections, Correa has also launched a major campaign effort, arguing that only the reelection of the ruling party can sustain their great work. Should the opposition interfere, he claims, all the good that has come from the project would come to an end.

Assuming that were true, it would only indicate that the public works and infrastructure he’s introduced have been temporary and cannot be sustained over time. If so, then this so-called “Citizen’s Revolution project” has been nothing more than the populism of a single president.

Few could argue that public works have not improved during Correa’s time as president. It is also undeniable, however, that there has been a squandering of funds on propaganda, censorship, political division, and other restrictions on Ecuadorians. The recent local elections have sent Correa a clear message: propaganda and attempts at discrediting the opposition are no longer enough to capture the attention of the voters.

Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

Alexandra Veloz Alexandra Veloz

Alexandra Veloz is a lawyer in Quito, Ecuador. She has professional experience in corporate legal services. Follow her on twitter @Alex_Veloz_V.