EspañolTartuffe, or the Hypocrite, Molière’s 17th-century satire, tells the story of a man who skilfully pretends to abide by a rigid moral code of piety and asceticism, only to steal people’s goods after he’s gained their trust.
This classic work of literature is a must read for Ecuadorians who want to understand President Rafael Correa’s latest crusade called “Auction for the People.”
The president has decided to auction a golden Rolex he received from the Emir of Qatar, valued at US$12,000, as well as a $1,200 bicycle gifted by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. With the proceeds, he promises to build houses in Zumbahua, a small community in the Ecuadorian province of Cotopaxi.
According to cognitive psychologists, consistency between our attitudes, beliefs, and behavior is a basic principle of how we function. Therefore, in order to reduce or eliminate cognitive dissonance when these things do not agree, people often resort to hypocrisy as a strategy to cope with inner conflict.
This is exactly what Correa is attempting to do with his latest reality show. He feigns austerity while attempting to portray himself, both at home and abroad, as the “magnanimous” leader.
If the president had any consistency at all, he would begin by cutting government spending. For example, he could trim at least 10 percent of the skyrocketing salaries for state employees at Yachay University. The provost alone earns $16,200 a month. He could do the same for the director of the Social Security Bank (Biess), who earns $13,356 per month, as legislator Andrés Páez has reported.
Fortunately, Ecuadorians are fully aware that a salient feature of the Correa administration over the last nine years has been its obscene spending of public funds. The generous salaries of Biess officials is just one of many examples of irresponsible waste.
However, just like Tartuffe, President Correa’s supposed austerity goes out the window the minute people aren’t looking. Despite Ecuador’s deepening economic crisis, he recently sent the presidential plane to Uruguay to bring President Tabaré Vázquez to Quito, just so he could participate as a mediator in the border dispute between Colombia and Venezuela.
Needless to say, sending off airplanes as if they were taxis to transport foreign officials costs much more than the bike and gold Rolex Correa plans to auction.
“Tartuffery” is the only word that can describe the Ecuadorian president’s pathetic actions. As a trained economist, he cannot claim ignorance as an excuse.
Samuel Johnson said it best: “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”