THE progressive candidate Lenin Moreno recently celebrated victory in Ecuador’s presidential election, beating rival Guillermo Lasso by more than 200,000 votes, bucking the right’s resurgent trend in South America and giving a major boost to the left in the region.
Moreno’s victory by a margin of 2.2 per cent came in the second round of voting, after he fell short by less than 0.7 per cent of winning the first round on February 19.
His election is a boost for the left in Latin America, where pro-free market candidates have made gains in recent years, through elections in Argentina and a coup in Brazil.
This was the first presidential election in 10 years where president Rafael Correa was not standing. The result ensures a continuation of the Citizens’ Revolution which under Correa’s leadership has lifted more than one million people out of poverty, slashed inequality and provided access to free healthcare and education.
For the right-wing oligarchs and their candidate Guillermo Lasso, this was their first real chance in a decade to regain control of the economy. Despite the democratic vote, they are not giving up without a fight and are running a well-planned international operation to discredit Ecuador’s newly elected president.
Lasso, a wealthy banker, stood on a platform of tax cuts for the wealthy, a greater role for the private sector in education and health and financial deregulation. He personally stood to gain millions from the latter.
Ahead of the elections, and on the day of the vote, Lasso and his campaign threatened to unleash unrest in case he lost.
As the results started to be announced by the electoral authorities (the CNE), showing Moreno ahead, Lasso called on his supporters to protest at the CNE headquarters in Quito, calling the elections a fraud.
This was despite all four observer missions in Ecuador, including Unasur and the Organisation of American States (OAS), recognising Moreno’s victory, following what Unasur described as “an electoral process with exemplary co-ordination.”
Even a recount hasn’t appeased Ecuador’s hard rightwingers who are up in arms at the thought of social progress and redistribution deepening.
Despite the antics of the right in Ecuador, Moreno has received congratulations from across the world and the region.
In Latin America itself, political leaders from around the continent and across the political spectrum have been congratulating Moreno on his victory, further undermining the claims of fraud.
Governments that have recognised the election result in Ecuador include Colombia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama and Uruguay, as well as the OAS.
But it is not just in Latin America this election has much significance — it also shows progressives worldwide that people’s lives can be transformed when there is the political will to do so, and that policies to boost the economy alongside social justice can be popular at the polls.
Moreno ran his campaign on the promise of creating 200,000 new jobs, guaranteeing access to higher education, improving older people’s quality of life and building hundreds of thousands of houses to bring dignity to the poorest people without a home.
Moreno has promised to protect the social gains of the Citizens’ Revolution and govern “above all for the poor.”
In recognition of the clear deep divisions in the country, Moreno tweeted after the election: “A big hug to those who believed in our proposal as well as to those who did not vote for us; we’ll work for them too.”
Moreno is paraplegic after being shot in a robbery in 1998. He served as vice-president during Correa’s first term in 2007-13 before becoming UN special envoy on disability.
As vice-president, he launched an innovative national job placement programme, targeting the institutionalised discrimination and social isolation which keeps many disabled people in poverty.
In addition, he implemented a groundbreaking national caregiver subsidy for family members as well as a nationwide accessible housing programme.
All of this bodes well for the amazing achievements in social inclusion that Ecuador has made in recent years to not only be maintained but deepened.
Furthermore, the background to the election and the campaign itself saw the corporate media endlessly repeating opposition propaganda about the threat of Ecuador becoming a failed state and arguing that only deregulation and tax breaks could attract inward investment.
These media also ignored the major expose of how Lasso himself had manipulated Ecuador’s 1999 banking crisis to make millions of dollars from desperate people and hide it in tax havens to avoid paying taxes.
But despite this, the right wing didn’t win — this is also cause for celebration, especially coming so soon after the Sandinistas landslide victories in Nicaragua last year.
Nonetheless, we know from the experience of Ecuador itself and Latin America as a whole over recent years, that the domestic and international elites will not take this latest victory lying down — our solidarity and vigilance will be more important than ever.
Celebrate and learn more. Adrian Weir is chairing the event “VIVA Lenin Moreno: Celebrate social progress in Ecuador & Latin America” on Thursday April 27, an opportunity to hear a first-hand account of the election from Ecuadorian activist Alejandro Valverde and celebrate with speakers from Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela. It takes place from 6.30-8pm at Unite the Union, 128 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8TN. Please register at bit.ly/vivaleninmoreno or on the door from 6pm.