EspañolOn February 23, Ecuador will hold its elections for local officials. The months preceding election day have been marked by comprehensive and aggressive propaganda campaigns by ruling party PAIS Alliance, and their principal representative, President Rafael Correa. Even when not in election season, the political ads of the “Citizen’s Revolution” are exhausting, so we should expect nothing less during the campaigns.
Last week, the campaigns focused on Augusto Barrera, a mayoral candidate for the ruling party, who is up for re-election in the capital city of Quito.
Following poll results published on February 11, which had the ruling party losing not only in the city of Guayaquil — the second largest city in the country — but also in the capital, Correa launched a media campaign designed to discredit Barrera’s opponent in Quito, Mauricio Rodas of the SUMA-VIVE party.
The thought of losing Quito alarmed Correa. A few hours after the poll results were released, the leader of the citizen’s revolution sent a letter to its members through the party’s official Twitter account, urging them to vote for Barrera.
In the letter, Correa wrote, “The enemy knows the importance of Quito. They know that from there, they can destabilize your government.” He also reminded the military to support the party and included this quote from 16th century Spanish knight St. Ignatius Loyola: “In a besieged castle, all dissent is treason.”
Correa didn’t stop there. He addressed a second letter to the people of Quito on February 12 — this time through his personal Twitter account — insisting once again that they vote for Barrera.
A los votantes de Quito, con el cariño y compromiso de siempre… http://t.co/uQNegFUbUM Rafael.
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) February 13, 2014
At that moment, Correa’s anxiety over a possible defeat in Quito was clear. And since Saturday February 15, the president has seemed more desperate than ever.
Just like every other Saturday, Correa broadcasted his famed Enlace Ciudadano (Citizen Link) radio and television program. The episode was devoted to singing the praises of his mayor in Quito and all the great work he’s done. It was full of hours of endless expositions on the construction of roads and repairs of the capital. The “Enlace” — which coincidentally is funded by all Ecuadorians and is therefore public — was turned into the most blatant election propaganda ever seen.
The entire state apparatus throwing its weight behind Barrea surely disadvantages the other candidates and delegitimizes equal participation — a fact that goes unrecognized by the government. Such is the ruling party’s candidate: unable to win on his own merits, it is left up to Correa to win the election for him, as the president continues to demonstrate his lack of leadership.
Incidentally, the National Electoral Council, the body responsible for regulating propaganda and ensuring equality in political campaigns, has been silent on the issue. Its failure to act and punish the ruling party for campaigning through the president and his many resources undoubtedly highlights the body’s lack of impartiality. Meanwhile, Correa continues to use all his means as president to favor the PAIS Alliance party.
The Path to Defeat
Quito has historically supported Correa’s government, but is now demonstrating its displeasure. Many of Mayor Barrera’s cited good deeds were accomplished near the end of his term, and few of them were actually useful. Many long months of work — much of it done during rainy weather — not only caused traffic congestion, but showed a lack of foresight which, coupled with excessive taxation and fines, has eroded the people’s confidence in a mayor that the president wants to keep.
Correa has one week to convince the people to vote for Barrera in order to maintain power in the nation’s capital. The president knows that the differences between the two candidates aren’t glaring, and thus he’s likely to continue abusing his position and resources to affect the election.
Through all of this, Correa’s desperate actions have demonstrated two principal things: his need for control at all costs — which is nothing new — and the start of a vital period in which Ecuadorians begin looking for a much needed balance of power to their authoritarian government.
Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.