The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Interview with Ecuador's President Correa

"We are not the problem. It's Colombia".

by José Zepeda*

Radio Netherlands, 26-07-2008

Ecuador is in trouble. Both with itself, due to a controversial new draft constitution, and with its neighbours. In an exclusive interview with José Zepeda, the head of the Latin American service of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, President Correa not only hits out at neighbouring Colombia but also at the indigenous population in his own country: "We are not making the mistake others make saying: ‘poor people, just let them talk nonsense´".

José Zepeda interviewing Rafael Correa
José Zepeda interviewing Rafael Correa (seen right)
Since Rafael Correa became president 18 months ago, Ecuador has had a progressive government. The president wants the state to take a leading role in the country's development without exerting the rigid control it had in the past.

Mr Correa believes in a mixed economy and a social system that guarantees citizens' fundamental rights, such as work, health care, housing and education. All this has earned him widespread praise, with some 60 percent of the population currently supporting him.

A referendum on a controversial new constitution, however, is dividing the country. The indigenous population, in particular, had hoped to see some sort of positive discrimination enshrined in the charter to compensate for their longstanding discrimination. President Correa says his government is already doing everything it can to improve their position:

"Look, we are the only ones who really do not discriminate against the indigenous population. We don't treat them as a pitiful lot but as equals. When they talk nonsense and make mistakes, we tell them so. We are not making the mistake others make, saying: ‘Oh, poor people, just let them talk nonsense.'" All of Ecuador's established political parties are in the midst of a crisis. They have lost credibility because of their past failures. But there is real opposition: from the rich upper class, from some employers and from the far left. There is also opposition within the Alianza País (Country Alliance), the movement that backs the governing coalition. According to Mr Correa, this internal opposition comes from disloyal politicians with an agenda of their own. Economic players opposing the government control the media and have declared war on the president. Nonetheless, Mr Correa firmly rejects any state control over the media, which he wants controlled by civilian platforms.

Victim of aggression
Ecuador recently severed all ties with Colombia after Colombian troops crossed the border to attack a FARC rebel camp. President Correa underlines that his country is the victim of aggression as a result of internal conflicts in neighbouring Colombia.

"Half a million Colombians are living in Ecuador. Most of them have fled the violence in Colombia. In Ecuador they have found the peace and security they don't have in their own country. We have thirteen military units along the border, Colombia has only two. Because of the conflict in Colombia we spend over 100 million dollars to protect our northern border and they come here and bomb us."

President Correa
President Correa
Some doubt that Ecuador is really all that neutral. Many in Europe suspect that Ecuador's government, while not a direct ally of the FARC, has turned a blind eye to rebel activities launched from Ecuador. President Correa emphatically denies this. He blames the rightwing paramilitaries operating in Colombia, the drugs cartels, the cocaine plantations and the infiltration of Colombia's political establishment by the paramilitaries.

Ecuador, by contrast, Mr Correa stresses, is the region's most successful country in combating the drugs cartels. It is the only Andean country, he says, with no coca plantations, guerrillas or paramilitaries. Ecuador, the president insists, has nothing to do with the Colombian conflict. It is its victim.

Aerial fumigation
Ecuador has lodged a complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague to force Colombia to stop fumigating illegal coca plantations. Ecuador estimates half the pesticides end up on its soil. Aerial fumigation stopped in February 2007 but Colombia has refused to rule out a resumption. President Correa underlines that the pesticides are no longer the only issue. The raid that killed FARC commander Raúl Reyes on 1 March was another serious violation of its sovereignty.

"We are a peaceful country and approach the appropriate judicial bodies, in this case the International Court of Justice in The Hague. But we don't rule out any other legal actions. We are using all diplomatic means to address the aggression of 1 March, which was one more instance of Colombia's hostility."

Something that has prompted outrage across Latin America is the adoption by the European Union of the so-called Return Directive, which allows member states to repatriate illegal immigrants. Though the directive affects many Latin American countries, they have yet to take a common stance. Mr Correa currently heads the Community of Andean Nations but has so far failed to garner support for a joint protest. Ecuador views the directive as an act of aggression and a human rights violation.

President Correa, finally, urges all Ecuadorians living abroad to return home. All problems may not yet have been solved, he admits, but the country is on the right track. He hopes they will all come back to work for the country's future. But he stresses they have every right to stay abroad. Migration, Mr Correa underlines, is a human right and he will continue to do all he can to ensure human rights are respected everywhere in the world.

*RNW translation (cl)

No comments:

Post a Comment