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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

INTERVIEW: Ecuador's Correa: US no longer "Satan" for Latin America

via EUX.TV, July 18, 2007
By Fernando Heller, dpa
Eds: dpa exclusive

Brussels (dpa) - Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa believes that Latin America still faces the challenge of building "true democracy," but he admitted that the United States is no longer the region's "Satan."
"What we have are formal democracies, fragile like plasticine," Correa, 44, said in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "It is true that we have been holding elections for 20 years, but having a democracy is something quite different."

An economist who met his wife, Anne Malherbe, in Belgium during his postgraduate studies there, Correa was on a private visit to Brussels.

"Look at what happened in our countries a few years ago: you could say any awful thing you wanted to win the election, and the following day you did exactly the opposite, and people were stuck with that person for four years," he said.

In January, the populist Correa became Ecuador's eighth president in 10 years, with a reform programme that includes a constituent assembly to thoroughly reshape the oil-rich country's institutions.

He belongs to a generation of left-wing politicians who have risen to power in Latin America in recent years, along with Evo Morales in Bolivia and the firebrand Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or the less controversial Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil and Nestor Kirchner in Argentina.

Correa sees himself and other leaders in the region as representatives of the "new, Latin American-style socialism."

"We are part of that current denominated 21st-century socialism," he said. "We agree with traditional socialism on the supremacy of labour over capital, for example."

Correa lamented that over the last two decades, Latin America has suffered "a total subjugation of lives, people and human labour to the need to accumulate capital."

He complained about changes that made labour markets more flexible for the sake of growth, while workers suffered lower wages and a loss of stability.

In opposition to such changes, Correa emphasized socialist traditions such as "the importance of collective action" to overcome what he called "the myth - closer to religion than to science - that individualism is the engine of society."

Correa advocates stronger central governments to fight inequality in Latin America.

"I want to make it very clear that we are not proponents of statism," he said. "However, it is absurd to think that the smaller the state, the better, and thinking that takes you nowhere, especially in societies like Ecuador's with so many inequalities. Minimizing the state in Ecuador would be catastrophic."

Correa is quick to distance himself from Soviet-style socialism.

"How do we differ from traditional socialism? For example, in that well into the 21st century, nobody can imagine nationalizing the means of production," he said.

"But what we do want is to have millions of owners, to democratize the means of production, and even more so in countries like Ecuador, where 1 per cent of the population has shares in firms. Ecuador's capitalism is only for an elite."

Latin American development been thwarted, Correa argued, by factors including "a wild populism which benefited capital."

"But the peoples of Latin America have also had to bear appalling economic policies or extremely high levels of corruption, precisely as a consequence of a disastrous economic management," he said.

Compared to the inflammatory rhetoric of Chavez, for example, Correa was mild in his evaluation of US influence but unrelenting toward multilateral organizations including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

"The United States is no longer a Satan for America, but if we want to achieve an egalitarian world, it's impossible with the IMF or the World Bank. Without them it is perfectly possible," he said.

"That is why one of our great missions is to neutralize the influence that those organisms have in Latin America. I personally expelled the World Bank's representative in Ecuador for the abuse and blackmail he committed in the country. For reforming a law, as a sovereign country, they took away a loan which had already been granted to us. That is unacceptable."

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