Who’s to Blame for Ecuador’s Crisis?

Ecuadorians pushed back against Rafael Correa's proposal for new taxes on inheritances and capital gains.
Ecuadorians pushed back against Rafael Correa’s proposal for new taxes on inheritances and capital gains. (Wikimedia)

EspañolTwo months ago, Ecuador erupted in massive anti-government protests. Thousands of citizens have taken to the streets since then to let President Rafael Correa know they are sick of his attitude, the crippling taxes, the “Citizen Revolution,” and a number of other things.

But is the government strictly to blame for the country’s current crisis?

It’s always easier to point the finger at someone else when things go wrong. Unfortunately, citizens often forget who voted for these politicians in the first place.

We’re the ones who allow the government to do what it does, so we are at least partly responsible for the restrictions to our freedom, the injustice, and the rampant corruption and impunity that has reigned in Ecuador during Correa’s administration.

Over the last few months, social media has played a key role in Ecuadorian society. It has become the go-to source for reporting, organizing, and proposing alternatives to the status quo. More importantly, it is where Ecuadorians have the opportunity to express themselves freely.

On Facebook, I came across a post with over 600 likes and 7,000 shares that lists a number of complaints regarding Correa’s “revolution.” It made me realize that many Ecuadorians still do not truly understand the root of the problem in our country.

Here’s why they’re wrong:

1. “I will vote for Correa the day I go to Japan and most of the products over there say ‘Made in Ecuador,’ and when the world envies our economy; that would be a real revolution.”

Unfortunately, under the socialist economic model of the Citizen Revolution, this is not achievable. Correa’s National Plan for Good Living (PNBV), published in 2009, spoke of an “economic revolution” based on the selective substitution of imports (SSI).

Therefore, a group of enlightened government technocrats hand pick, as it were a guest list to an exclusive party, which industries will succeed and which ones will be left out (through taxes, import restrictions, etc.).

However, in order to get our products to Japan, we need free-trade agreements, fewer import restrictions, legal certainty for businesses, and fewer restrictions on starting a business. Moreover, we must be willing to accept Japanese products in our country, because that is what international trade and competition are all about.

We have to be open to the world. But that’s not what this government is looking for with its protectionist measures based on an outdated model, which history has shown does not work.

2. “I will vote for Correa when Ecuador is a country of rich people, not poor people who cheer with their little green flags for a sandwich.”

There is a lot to say on this, especially after President Correa’s statements on the “immoral inequality” in Ecuador, the importance of “social justice,” and the redistribution of wealth. This is precisely how he justified the inheritance and capital-gains taxes he tried to impose.

Nevertheless, I will try to summarize my response in two points: (1) social justice does not exist, and (2) the problem in Ecuador not inequality.

The governments that subscribe to 21st-century socialism forget that wealth must be created, not redistributed. The important thing is that the poorest are less poor, not that the they cease to be poor by redistributing the wealth of the rich.

The “social justice” that Correa seeks to impose is not justice at all, and to get the poor out of poverty we need measures completely opposite to those of the Citizen Revolution.

Going back to the PNBV, both of its versions (2009 and 2013) state that the revolution will promote the “democratization and diversification of the forms of production and property.”

Therefore, Correa is following his government plan to the letter. The problem is Ecuadorians did not read the PNBV before voting for him.

3. “People voted for Correa because they thought they were going to see a revolution and no longer envy other countries. Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, or Hugo Chávez never crossed their minds.”

Huge mistake. Again, as a result of misinformation — and no, not from the corrupt media, but of willful ignorance — many of those who voted for Correa did so out of convenience, or familiarity, but now regret it.

So, what can we learn from what’s happening in Ecuador?

First, we have to thoroughly analyze each candidate before casting our ballots. Reading the policy proposals from those who aim to occupy the chair at Carondelet is important. Political apathy is not an option, since, unfortunately, voting is mandatory in this country.

We are obliged to participate in the elections, and that makes all of us responsible for the choices we make at the polls.

Second, we must move past socialist governments. If we are looking for more wealth, more opportunities, respect for private property, and more jobs, we need a candidate who actually understands economics and is willing to remove trade barriers and allow citizens to freely develop.

Third, we must participate and be more aware of what is happening in our country. We must demand accountability from those in power, so they cannot get away with corruption, and constantly remind them that they must serve the public, not the other way around.

Finally, as the old saying goes, people get the government they deserve. If things go wrong, we can’t just blame the politicians.

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