This interview took place on May 22, 2012. It offers a window into the mind of one of South America's most articulate, intelligent and powerful leaders, President Rafael Correa, who has turned the old US-backed oligarchy in Ecuador on its head. As an introduction to the interview, we cover President Correa's educational and political history and conditions that have led to current U.S.-Ecuador relations and foreign policy.
President Correa's Education: Correa holds two Masters Degrees in Economics, one from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the other from University of Illinois in the United States. He then earned his Ph.D. in Economics, also from the University of Illinois. In President Correa's doctoral dissertation, titled "Three Essays on Contemporaneous Latin American Development" (2001), Correa argued that structural reforms from the 1980's on, failed to produce wealth for Latin American countries and that neo-liberal, "free-trade" policies imposed by the United States actually reduced productivity.
Political Background: Correa served as economic and finance minister under U.S.-backed President Alfredo Palacio in 2005 but resigned after 4 months in office due to Palacio's support of the IMF and the World Bank and Palacio's decision to undercut "international commitments" - agreements already made by Ecuadoran and Venezuelan Finance Ministers to sell bonds to Venezuela. Similar negotiations were underway to sell bonds to Brazil and Colombia at that time. Palacio stated publicly that the agreements were made by Correa without the knowledge. In his letter of resignation, Correa challenged Palacio's statement, "I carried out this whole operation, Mr. President, with your due knowledge and authorization, except for some technical details that were within my field of expertise."
Elected President: In 2006 Rafael Vicente Correa was democratically elected as the 56th president of Ecuador. His first term in office would have ended in January, 2011. But the Ecuadoran constitution, re-written by the National Assembly, required new general elections in April, 2009. In those elections, Correa was easily re-elected to a new term in office with a 65% approval rating by the people of Ecuador. His current term in office is due to end on August 10, 2013 but could be extended by re-election until 2017.
Wikileaks Memos: Original Wikileaks documents are well hidden from the public on the internet and many corporate media articles made our searches for them difficult but not unsuccessful. Wikileaks exposed several articles of U.S./Corporate malfeasance against Ecuador, deeply appreciated by President Correa.
On September 10, 2010, members of the Ecuadoran police, infiltrated by the U.S. went on strike and took control of a military base. President Correa went to the site to negotiate with the police where they attacked him. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and the same police surrounded the hospital and attempted to enter it, possibly to assassinate him. Correa responded, ""Kill me if you need to. There will be other Correa's." Correo del Orinoco reported:
"Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño called on supporters to go to the hospital to defend Correa and prevent his assassination. Military forces also took over an air base in Quito to prevent air transit and took over nearby streets to prevent Correa's supporters from mobilizing towards the hospital. Other security forces took over the parliament, preventing legislators from accessing the state institution and causing severe chaos and violence. Thousands of supporters filled Quito’s streets, gathering around the presidential palace, backing Correa and rejecting the coup attempt. At 2pm EST, the Ecuadorian government declared an emergency state. Countries throughout the region expressed support for Correa and condemned the destabilization. The Organization of American States in Washington called an emergency meeting at 2:30pm EST. ALBA nations and UNASUR are also convening."
In the Assange-Correa interview below, President Correa explains that he doubled police salaries during his first term in office to offset a law in the new constitution that eliminated U.S. payments to Ecuadoran police:
“Before, there were whole police units, key units, fully funded by the U.S. embassy, whose officers in command were chosen by the U.S. ambassador and paid by the U.S. And so, we have increased considerably the police’s pay.”
Wikileaks memos revealed that Heather M. Hodges, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador accused Jaime Hurtado, commander of Ecuador's national police force of corruption: Hodges cable said that the embassy had
“multiple reports that indicate he used his positions to extort bribes, facilitate human trafficking, misappropriate public funds, obstruct investigations and prosecutions of corrupt colleagues and engage in other corrupt acts for personal enrichement... Hurtado’s corrupt activities were so widely known within the upper ranks of the ENP [Ecuadorian National Police] that some Embassy officials believe that President Correa must have been aware of them when he made the appointment. These observers believe that Correa may have wanted to have an ENP Chief whom he could easily manipulate.”
On April 7, 2011, the Ecuadoran government accused the U.S. of infiltrating their police forces and declared Heather Hodges, "persona non grata" and expelled her as U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador.
U.S. and Chevron: Wikileaks also exposed other U.S. interference with Ecuador including diplomatic cables which revealed complicity between the oil giant, Chevron and the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador. Karen Hinton, was a spokesperson for 30,000 indigenous people in Ecuador who won an $18.2 billion judgement against Chevron for their destruction of their environment from 1964 to 1992. Referring to Wikileaks' release of U.S. documents, Hinton stated:
"These diplomatic cables reveal a shocking level of misconduct on the part of Chevron's lawyers to undermine the rule of law in Ecuador. They also demonstrate the company’s extremely close ties to U.S. embassy officials in Ecuador who seemed open to helping Chevron shut down the legal case.”
Wikileaks on Ecuador cut both ways: All cables released by Wikileaks are not particularly favorable to Rafael administration, but in the interview below, President Correo welcomes them because he believes that the people have the right to the information whether critical or favorable to his government. Meanwhile, the U.S. and European corporate media continues to slander him for "oppression of free speech." Correa also addresses this in the interview, telling of grip that private, anti-government corporations hold on the Ecuadoran media.
Manta Air Base: Finally, when considering the U.S. interference in Ecuador, it must be remembered that the Correa administration expelled the U.S. Manta Air Base from Ecuador in 2009 when its 30 year lease expired after U.S. and Israeli forces used the base to launch a missile attack killing Raul Reyes and 22 others in a FARC camp near the Colombian border inside Ecuador.
As president, Correa has championed the Bolivarian revolution in Latin America and more recently became even more popular throughout the world for offering Julian Assange asylum in Ecuador. He supported Assange after Wikileaks released the U.S. Embassy cables. Assange is in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London currently, illegally denied passage to Ecuador by the UK government. Correa has become one of the most courageous and intelligent heads of state in Latin America, leading Ecuador out of the misery of neo-colonialism into a brighter future. In the following interview, he explains the battles his administration continues to fight against individuals within the Ecuadoran congress, banks, corporations and judiciary who continue to defend U.S. imperialism in the country.
(photo collage of President Correa by Axis of Logic)
- Les Blough in Venezuela
Source: The Julian Assange Show