SOCIALIST Andres Arauz’s resounding lead in the first round of the Ecuadorian elections represents a blow to Washington and the Lima group, an expert has said.
Known as the protégé of former president Rafael Correa, Arauz achieved 32.7 percent of the vote – not enough to win outright, but a result that gives him a comfortable lead going into the second round.
It’s still unclear who Arauz will face on April 11 – Yaku Perez, an environmental lawyer, was less than half a percentage point behind ex-banker Guillermo Lasso.
Perez, who has already outperformed all expectations, was denied a recount today by Ecuador’s National Electoral Council after alleging electoral fraud.
Professor Daniel Hellinger of Webster University told Redaction Politics: “The results of the first-round resounding support the left, and Arauz seems to be on his way to victory, but there remains some uncertainty.
“However, whoever of Lasso or Perez emerges as his opponent in the second-round would have an outside chance of overtaking him.
“A victory for Yaku Perez would also be counted as a victory for the left, as this would be a victory for the Indigenous movement, Pachakutiik.”
The Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement, who played a prominent role in the 2019 demonstrations against former President Lenin Moreno’s cancellation of fuel subsidies, are now the second largest party in the National Assembly after the February 7 vote.
However, there is some doubt to whether Perez and Arauz, despite both being left-wing, would work with each other.
Correa’s commitment to developing the mining industry – and Arauz’s affirmation that he would respect existing mining concessions in Ecuador – opened an electoral gap for Perez to rally against the practice, which has caused immeasurable damage to Ecuador’s indigenous communities.
“Pachakutik and the leftist supporter of former President Rafael Correa are mutually suspicious of one another,” Professor Hellinger said.
“Pachakutik feels it has been sold out by leftist politicians in the past, and Yaku Pererz actually said once in the campaign that he preferred Lasso to Arauz.
“Many on the left, on the other hand, think the Yaku Perez’s “eco-communitarianism” is unrealistic in thinking that Ecuador can simply abandon extractive industries, especially in the face of the pandemic and deep economic recession.”
The election results also showed where the various hubs of support for each of the three candidates was around the country.
Professor Hellinger said: “Lasso’s support is rooted in Quito area, where he has solid support among the middle class and elites.
“Yaku Perez largely draws from rest of the Andean region and in the more sparsely populated Amzonian region, where resistance to mining and oil drilling is especially strong. Arauz is strongest in the Atlantic region, including Guayaquil.
“This is the poorest region, one that has historically supported conservative populists but now swung to left populism.
“If Pachakutik and Arauz’s coalition can cooperate, they have won enough seats in the National Assembly for the left to control it, but we’ll have to see whether they can overcome their mutually suspicion of one another.
“Their platforms both reject neoliberalism, but there is considerable difference between each one’s overall economic philosophy. And looming over all is the highly polarized view of Correa, Aruaz’s patron, that divide not just the population overall but the Left.
“Arauz and Lasso both would rely heavily on mining and oil to lift the economy. Either one will engender resistance over this from Pachkutik; but Yaku Perez has not been clear just how can reconcile eco-communitarianism with the goal of heeling Ecuador’s economy, sick from the pandemic and from the collapse of commodity prices.”
Should Perez make up the 33,000 or so gap between him and Lasso, however, the message is clear – after years of Lenin Moreno, the left will be back in charge in Ecuador.
“Regardless of their divisions, a victory by Arauz or Yaku Perez is likely to mean one more country that served to right has moved back to the left,” Professor Hellinger concluded.
“This would be another blow to the Lima Group, which has been an instrument for Washington to put diplomatic pressure on Maduro.
“April 11 is also the first round of Peru’s elections, with 9 major candidates carving up the votes, including Keiko Fujimori and Veronika Mendoza, and outside leftist candidate who seems to be rising in the polls. “
Daniel Hellinger is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Webster University and author of Comparative Politics of Latin America (3rd edition, Routledge)
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