Andres Arauz closed his campaign in Quito. There, the popular support which is expressed in the polls was seen again, the majority of which affirm that he is the favorite for Sunday 7th. Why is Arauz, unknown by the majority months ago, now leading the polls? There are several reasons.
Thursday afternoon in downtown Quito. Demonstrators gather for the electoral closing ceremony of Andres Arauz, the candidate of Unidos por la Esperanza (UNES), who will dispute the presidency at the polls next Sunday. People have come from different parts of the country, it is the culmination of a campaign that has overcome several obstacles, many of them imposed by the National Electoral Council (CNE).
Different candidates for the National Assembly (NA), an election to be held simultaneously with the presidential elections, are speaking. It is the last act after 40 days of campaigning in which he toured the country in order to make known the proposals of the government he seeks to lead, and, above all, to make himself known. Arauz, before being chosen to head the presidential ticket, was a young politician, academic, with government experience, but unknown to many people.
The UNES candidate leads most of the polls. The high probability of him coming out on top on February 7, is due to several interrelated reasons. In the first place, he is the candidate of the formula of the Citizen Revolution, the political force that governed Ecuador between 2007 and 2017 under Rafael Correa. The former president, now in Belgium, maintains a high level of popular support that went to the figure of Arauz.
Secondly, the memory of Correa’s governments, his leadership, contrast with the years of Lenin Moreno, a man who was elected to continue the project of the citizen revolution, and ultimately carried out a political persecution against those who brought him to the presidency, conducted a neoliberal aperture, and opted for alignment with the United States.
“The Ecuadorian people are fed up with traitors and will not put up with one more betrayal, I can swear total loyalty to the project of the citizen revolution”, Arauz affirms from the stage. Many people gathered with orange and white colors on flags, caps and t-shirts.
Julia Almeida, 65 years old, is among those who came to listen to Arauz and the different legislative candidates. “I am here of my own free will, for my children, my grandchildren and for the thousands of Ecuadorians who have hope,” she says.
“Before the citizen revolution Ecuador was a disaster, we had four presidents in one year, one of them was president for one day, we were in a mess, we elected for the sake of electing, it was a country that had unimaginable poverty rates, we had no infrastructure in health, education or mobility”.
For Almeida, as for millions of Ecuadorians, there is a before and an after the arrival of Correa to the presidency of the country: “when Rafael arrived he changed things, he gave this country a different face, infrastructure, we could study in first class schools, hospitals were built, free medicines”.
After what she calls “four years of misgovernment”, Moreno’s mandate, she states that she will vote for Arauz and Rabascall, “the first because he is a prepared young man, a human being committed to the causes of all Ecuadorians, and for Rabascall, a first class professional and human being, so that they can provide a proper governance for the majority”.
Almeida, in turn, expresses why she would not vote for Guillermo Laso, currently second in many polls: “we do not want to have a banker who keeps the money in his own pocket and who made us pay with tears of blood during banking holidays, because this man will only work for himself and his friends”.
She, like millions of Ecuadorians, remembers not only the fact that Lasso was president of the bank of Guayaquil and is one of its main shareholders, but also his role in the financial crisis of 1999 that left millions of people in ruins and enriched a few, among them Lasso.
The same site in Quito, called the arbolito park, where Arauz conducts the closing of his campaign, was the epicenter of the indigenous and popular uprising in October 2019. And it was here, instead of flags, campaign music, joy, there were barricades, tear gas bombs, wounded, dead, police, military.
The uprising lasted about a week. Delegations of the indigenous movement came from various regions of the country, and many people from the country’s capital joined in. Among them was Jahaira Urresta, then 27 years old.
“On Saturday 12, the worst day of the demonstrations, a policeman fired a tear gas bomb at my left eye from two meters away, I lost my eye,” he says after getting off the stage. She had just given a speech for those who came to the event: she is the head of the list to accede to the NA in Quito.
Urresta not only lost an eye, but was subjected to extortion by the then Minister of Government, María Paulo Romo, and, finally, threatened: “she tried to buy my silence and in view of my refusal and before the request for due legal process, then came the intimidation, persecution, threats and even the attempted murder of my family”.
The October 2019 uprising was a turning point in Ecuador. Moreno, who had low popularity, fell even further in view of the attempt to implement a neoliberal adjustment agreed with the International Monetary Fund, and the militarized and judicialized response with which he responded to those who demonstrated.
“We were asking the national government to listen to us, to set up work tables, unfortunately we received as an answer the fumigation of the citizens, they mutilated, dragged, murdered, imprisoned and exiled many comrades”.
After the uprising came the political persecutions of leaders of the Citizen Revolution, such as Paola Pabón and Virgilio Hernández. They were neither the first nor the last.
In the closing act there is the expectation of a victory of Arauz in the first round on Sunday. It is one of the most repeated slogans. The polls, besides giving Arauz as the candidate who would come first, indicate that he could reach 40% and the 10 points of difference needed over the second to win on Sunday itself.
The two other candidates following Arauz, namely Lasso and Yaku Perez, aspire to reach the second round rather than to come out on top. It means, both that they grow in number of votes, something that has not been reflected in most polls, and that Arauz does not reach the figure of 40%.
Within this framework of favorable tendency to Arauz, the attacks in social networks and through different international media have intensified, in what constitutes a campaign to try to delegitimize him, to hit him, and to affect his possibilities of victory in the first round.
The calculation of those who carry out the attacks to prevent a victory on Sunday is that, in case of a runoff election, an anti-correista alliance could be formed in order to defeat him at the polls.
The attacks take place in the framework of a campaign that has been marked by irregularities, mainly on the part of the CNE. “Since the beginning of the pre-campaign we have threats where they are looking for ways to damage the elections, even lengthen the time, or in one way or another cancel the vote, our call is to international organizations, to be guarantors and overseers to the suffrage of the Ecuadorian people”, explains Urresta from the event.
One of the irregularities denounced is, for example, the difficulty to exercise the vote in several countries abroad. On the same Thursday that the event takes place in Quito, there is a protest outside the Ecuadorian consulate in New York City, where they denounce the lack of the necessary observers for the electoral precincts, and the decision of the CNE that the vote count will be carried out in Ecuador and not in the voting table abroad.
That is why one of the calls heard at the event is to be vigilant on Sunday, in view of the possibility that there could be last minute maneuvers to prevent what could be a first round victory for Arauz. “On Sunday we must go out to celebrate and defend our vote,” says, for example, Ricardo Ulcuango, candidate for the legislative branch.
Much is at stake in the election, not only for Ecuador, but for Latin America and the United States, and the CNE has demonstrated throughout these months irregular practices to the disadvantage of the Arauz ticket.
Translation by Internationalist 360°