An Axis of Outcasts?
The column turned out to be a hysterical bashing of the popular presidential candidate Rafael Correa. My thought upon finishing the column was; Has this woman ever been to Ecuador or spoken to an Ecuadorian? I don't have the time or resources to fact check all of her wild claims, but will comment on a few statements that clashed badly with common sense or with my experience as a resident of Ecuador. She states:
If he makes it to the seat of power in Quito, he has made it clear that Ecuador will join the Latin American axis of outcasts-Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Argentina-and make the U.S. an official enemy.
O'Grady's characterization of the growing list of Latin American countries that have chosen paths not prescribed by Washington as outcasts rings more hollow as the list gets longer. I wondered why she omitted Brazil. President Lula certainly has strayed from the Washington script. Could it be that including Brazil would have made the "outcasts" represent the majority of the population of South America, hardly fitting the definition of outcast. The bit about making the U.S. an official enemy is just silly.
She follows that gem with:
A Correa presidency would be a negative for Colombia too, which would have to deal with hostile states on two borders along with home-grown narcoterrorism.
Diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Colombia certainly have not broken down to open hostilities while I was not paying attention, have they? The only thing that I can think of that Ecuadorians agree on almost unanimously, is their desire to not get involved in Colombia's violence. The unraveling of the Gutierrez presidency began with the embracing of Bush and Uribe. Ecuadorians were terrified by Lucio's statement that he would be Bush's "mejor aliado en la region." I can't imagine Correa would be either hostile or overly friendly with Uribe. My spell check has rightly underlined narcoterrorism as a figment of Ms. O'Grady's imagination.
It just gets better:
Yet what is most troubling is Mr. Correa's pledge to raze the political system and rebuild it to insure his long-term agenda. . . . . . . If some Ecuadorians are frightened by Mr. Correa, it's because he has made clear his intention to follow Mr. Chávez's path to unchecked power.
From what I have heard from Correa's campaign, he is promising to deliver the popular referendum and the constituent assembly that the social movements have been demanding for years. I guess what O'Grady means by following Chávez's path to unchecked power is that Correa intends to gain the popular support of a majority of the electorate. I'm sure some Ecuadorians (his political opponents) are frightened by that plan because it seems to be working. Authentic democracy does seem to scare the hell out of the oligarchs.
After O'Grady finishes trying to label Correa as a scary Chávez political clone, she switches to dire warnings about his economic policies. I don't have the expertise, the facts, or the patience to critique all of her claims, but a few statements certainly got my attention.
Dollarization, which brought inflation down to 3.1% from persistent double-digit levels in the 1990's, is so popular--70% of Ecuadorans [sic] love it-- . . . . Yet all his other policies, which are designed to choke off foreign investment, close down international commerce . . . .
I lived through dollarization, it was no picnic. The first year brought 100% inflation at a time when the Ecuadorian economy was suffering a banking crisis, and many people had just lost all their savings. A full 10% of the population abandoned the country to seek work abroad. 70% of Ms. O'Grady's Ecuadorian friends may love dollarization, but I have yet to meet a single Ecuadorian who does. I don't know what policies were designed to "choke off foreign investment" and "close down international commerce", she doesn't specify exactly how Mr. Correa intends to do these things, and I must have missed the speech in which he laid out his plans for the destruction of Ecuador's economy.
Basically Correa has tapped the anti-establishment sentiment that is strong among Ecuadorians. He has captured the attention of the people with his promise to "Dale Correa" (whip) the political establishment and their corruption. Of course all presidential candidates in Ecuador claim they will end corruption. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the corporate press will follow O'Grady's lead, and treat Mr. Correa as they have President Chávez. If the U.S. government relations with a Correa presidency follow the path they have with President Chávez, things could get very interesting since the U.S. has a military presence in Ecuador.