“Ecuador will once again be a determined and dedicated promoter of regional integration”.
In an exclusive interview, journalists from the Communication Forum for the Integration of Our Americas (FCINA) spoke with Andrés Aráuz, candidate for the Presidency of Ecuador for the Frente Unión por la Esperanza (UNES).
The forum was attended by the Latin American Information Agency (ALAI), the Latin American Association of Education and Popular Communication (ALER), the Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis (CLAE), the international news agencies Prensa Latina and Pressenza, and the Cuban Television Information System.
What follows are the substantial concepts of the conversation.
In a general context, the interviewee drew a desolate picture of the current situation in his country, which is undergoing a severe health and economic crisis. “The intention of the government was to weaken the public apparatus to promote privatizations”, he indicated, adopting policies that favored international financial capital.
With regards to the pandemic, “Ecuador today has the highest levels of mortality” in relation to its population, which the economist attributed “not to the lack of resources, public infrastructure, or availability of medicines and materials,” but to erroneous decisions that prioritized attending to the foreign debt before serving the people.
“We are on the verge of democratic collapse in Ecuador,” he denounced in reference to attempts to outlaw the progressive formula. Finally, the citizen mobilization and international solidarity made it possible for the pair at the forefront of the movement to be on the ballot.
The pending debt with the democratization of communication
When asked about the prospects for democratizing communication once the government is in place, Aráuz acknowledged the outstanding debt in this area and stated that the constitutional mandate of equitable distribution of the radio-electric spectrum must be complied with in an effective and not just formal manner.
“We are going to promote the Open Digital Television, so that it is not concentrated in four or five channels”, he declared. “Just as the right to full freedom of expression must be respected, so must other rights such as access to information, the right to dignity, the fight against xenophobia, racism, machismo and hate speech, and the promotion of the participation of sectors that have not had a voice in communication spaces.
He also pointed out that it is necessary to take measures so as not to be subdued by the current digital colonialism. In relation to the public media, he emphasized its leading role, not at the service of a government, but with a shared governance so that they have a plural and independent line with social and public objectives. Finally, he defended an equitable and transparent distribution of official advertising.
Recovering UNASUR, the Bank of the South and institutionalizing CELAC
On regional integration, the UNES candidate expressed interest in promoting it. “Ecuador will once again be a determined and dedicated promoter of regional integration”. “We are going to retake UNASUR and claim the right to be its headquarters again, as stated in its Constitutive Treaty, we are going to recover the Bank of the South”, said Aráuz, who was also part of its construction “to put it at the service of regional sovereignty”.
In another of his statements, he affirmed that “Latin America and the Caribbean need to take a fundamental step forward by institutionalizing the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)”. According to the candidate for the Ecuadorian presidency, it is necessary to go beyond the dynamics of pro-tempore presidencies to give permanence to its functioning through “a general secretariat and a headquarters from which a long-term Latin American integration agenda can be built”.
He then presented a concept of great significance: “We want to inject a new dimension to integration, which is the power of integration from the peoples,” committing himself to do his utmost to achieve it. “So that, in this way, the Latin American social fabric is deepened not only at the level of States, but also at the level of our peoples,” he added, while launching the proposal of one million scholarships for student exchange between the different countries of the region.
A programmatic agenda with human life at the center, the preservation of democracy and the recovery of dignity
On the need to achieve the unity of the popular camp to defeat neo-liberalism and neo-colonialism, the candidate of progressivism warned about the attempts to divide the popular camp with arguments emanating from the hegemon. “We must have consciousness and historical vision to understand the need for this unity. In this election, we are risking our lives,” he said, implicating the government of Lenin Moreno’s responsibility for the murder and repression of thousands of Ecuadorians.
“We are making honest approaches, not on the basis of electoral pacts, on the basis of a programmatic agenda for the next twenty years, with human life at the center, the preservation of democracy and the recovery of dignity,” Aráuz proclaimed, declaring himself optimistic about the achievement and consecration of the unity of the popular forces.
Implementing solutions to the crisis: We know how to do it. We have done it in the past and we will do it again.
When asked about the points of his government platform to get out of the deep crisis in which the country finds itself, he pointed out that “we are going to receive a country in ruins, which is even worse than it is now. With seven months of government remaining, Aráuz denounced the new agreements with the IMF, which are going to maximize the damage inflicted on the Ecuadorian people. He sent a message to those “interested in last minute negotiations, for privatizations at the price of a corona virus, at the price of a sick chicken,” firmly stating that these operations will be reversed because they lack legitimacy.
He invited serious investors to build infrastructure, fiber optics, installations, new things, not to “destroy what the Ecuadorian people built with so much effort”.
We will recover the macroeconomic balance gradually, but that is not our priority, said the graduate in Development Economics from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO). It is unforgivable that in Ecuador, as an agrifood power, 15% of the population can no longer cover their basic needs. “We are going to apply a strong redistributive policy, through internal financing,” he said, adding that resources will be injected into the economies of the people, today suffocated by debt and lack of job opportunities.
He declared his intention to promote structural policies in favor of “universal decent work, so that those who want to work can do so”, pointing out that work is a human right.
To promote peace as a guiding principle in the relationship between Latin American peoples
On the possibility of a return of the Cuban medical mission as a support to the health crisis in Ecuador, he said that his government will make the request so that the mission can return to the country to save lives. At the risk of being infidential, he said that they have already had contacts with the Cuban embassy to pave the way for such a request in case they reach the government.
About Ecuador’s participation in the Lima Group, Aráuz said clearly that he does not want to belong to groups of countries that encourage division among Latin Americans. “We will not participate in that group, we have nothing to do there. We will promote peace as a guiding principle in the relationship between Latin American peoples. Conflicts can be resolved in a concerted manner in spaces such as CELAC”.
Regarding the military cooperation agreements with the United States taken by the current government, the UNES candidate referred to the constitutional mandate that prohibits foreign military bases in Ecuadorian territory. Today there is a base where intelligence services operate in the Galapagos Islands, after Ecuador denounced TIAR. There is no legal framework, no legitimate protocol for this. “We are going to exercise full sovereignty over the national territory”.
The current scheme of agreements with the IMF cannot be respected because it further weakens the situation of Ecuadorian families, encourages layoffs, salary reductions and precariousness, the outflow of capital and does not promote growth. “We are not going to fulfill those conditions. If they want to support our sovereign plan, they are welcome to do so,” he said.
In defense of the human rights of Julian Assange
In reference to the expulsion of Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the question was asked whether his government would take the initiative to try to stop the legal charade in progress against the journalist. To which Aráuz responded that, once the circumstances surrounding Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship – granted and withdrawn by Moreno’s own government – had been investigated, it was desirable that it be reinstated in order to protect his rights.
Measures to combat violence against women and to make plurinationality and interculturality a reality
He was also asked about the place of women and indigenous people in the future government. The presidential hopeful said they recently had an important meeting with the indigenous sector in Cayambe, “in order to reestablish the ties of brotherhood that unite progressivism with the indigenous peoples and nationalities of Ecuador. The plurinationality and interculturality established in the Constitution must be reflected in reality through public policies”, he said. “We have made strong commitments in this direction and we will see that they are fulfilled throughout our government”.
There have been 82 femicides in Ecuador in the course of this year. “That is intolerable. We will fight gender violence, violence against women, head-on”.
Generational renewal versus old politics
With respect to the generational renewal that he himself represents and the aspirations of a new sensibility emerging in young people, Aráuz pointed out that “only the Citizens’ Revolution opened the doors to generational renewal in the presidential candidatures. We feel indebted to this demand of the citizens, of a generational change, of fresh ideas, of youthful thinking, of creativity and innovation in public policy”.
“We are not motivated by the old way of doing politics, by the clean elbow, by trap, by manipulation. We are interested in putting our training and conviction at the service of the Ecuadorian people to provide solutions,” he concluded.
The construction of popular power
In view of the possibility of returning to the course of a popular government on the basis of the experience of the Citizens’ Revolution, the question was asked as to what aspects of the previous cycle to deepen and which others to do differently. “Where we have to be better, where the previous phase of the Citizen’s Revolution did not succeed, is the construction of popular power,” he said.
This is essential to prevent new betrayals or deviations from the agreed path. The people, through their organization and mobilization, must be able to revoke the mandate. It is necessary to strengthen citizen participation, so that, vigilant and mobilized, it safeguards the programmatic agenda. This is probably the greatest deficiency to be corrected, Aráuz said.
What the Citizens’ Revolution has done well and what we are going to do is manage government, a government at the service of the great majorities, he added.
Peace in Colombia and Peace in the Region
When asked what his administration will do for peace in Colombia and for regional peace, the contender in the February 2021 elections responded that if his government is summoned as a mediator, guarantor, host or simply to call meetings between the parties to confront the conflict that sister Colombia is experiencing, there will be full disposition to do so.
“If we are invited, count on us. We are committed to peace”.
Human mobility as a matter of state
When asked how a future government would address the migration issue, he replied that “human mobility is a state issue for us”. Araúz translated this in detail by mentioning the intention to establish an Ibero-American social security system, “hopefully also in agreement with the United States, in order to establish the compatibility of the processes between contributions and retirement”, repatriation of remains, legal assistance to emigrated compatriots, among other policies to be followed.
There are similarities with other governments in the region with whom it is possible to create a cooperation scheme to protect the human right to migrate, human mobility, and that this is not a reason for discrimination.
On possible contacts established with progressive presidents of the region in order to resume regional integration, Aráuz said he has already spoken with Argentine President Alberto Fernández and has been invited to the presidential inauguration of Luis Arce in Bolivia. We are on the path to brotherhood among progressive leaders.
In closing, he urged the guiding idea that will surely bring his transformative aspiration to fruition: “Our energy and dedication will be aimed at promoting the integration we really want, the integration among peoples. And we hope that our brother governments will also push in that direction”.
Translation by Internationalist 360°