For students of politics and/or economics, Ecuador’s Rafael President is a walking research paper, book and/or movie rolled into one. He has changed the face of Ecuador in ways that a decade or so ago would have been unimaginable, bringing more equality, better education and increased rights to more Ecuadorian people than they have ever had before. Many of the policies he has introduced will be studied in schools for years to come for their dramatic impact on a country’s economic and social systems.
However, like any politician (probably more so than any other vocation around), along with the good comes the bad…
It does appear he is selling off very large tracts of Amazon wilderness to oil companies despite deep concerns by many of the long term impact of this, and indeed the economic viability now oil prices have started to tumble on the sustainability of some of his “positive” contributions in education and welfare. He is one of the most divisive leaders in the world and plays on that divisiveness to garner support, having made it one of his core policies to pursue and shut down dissenting views by any and all means at hand (introducing new laws to help him do so if necessary), and has shown himself to have the thinnest of skins when it comes to any form of criticism of himself or his government. For a country’s leader to utilise his weekly nationally televised address to the nation to encourage his supporters to harass and attack an 18 year old student merely for writing a few critical remarks on a Twitter account would defy belief in many. He was justifiably ridiculed for this on US television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZaqTw406DI
So by any level of objectiveness, most should be able to appreciate that the jury is still out on whether Correa’s impact over the next few years will be a positive or negative one on Ecuador and its people. This would seem a reasonably understandable view to hold, no?
But try voicing that view on a number of online expat forums in Ecuador and see the kind of response you’ll provoke (and I’m sure this blog post itself will trigger something similar).
Strangely enough, many Ecuadorians themselves seem to understand this conflicting nature of their current president, with even those that support him realising that much of that support comes from a lack of viable alternatives rather than a belief that Correa is the long term answer (or “saviour” as I’ve read one particular expat describe him). Most Ecuadorians appear far more willing to engage and many times agree with the idea that there are certain policies Correa’s government are pursuing that are highly questionable, even if they support him overall and will likely vote for him next election. And almost all of them can laugh at the idiocy of Correa attacking some 18 year old kid on social media.
But within the online expat community in Ecuador this kind of balanced view from many who support Correa seems in limited supply. Whether it be the old chestnut:
“Go home if you don’t like it here.”
As if not liking a government’s policies means you don’t like many/most other things of a country and its people, or that someone looking for a place to live long term shouldn’t have a healthy concern of the political environment.
This classic directed at those who would dare to proffer any type of criticism of any kind:
“We are wasting our time with the haters.”
…because, of course, if you happen to disagree with someone then that makes you a “hater” (well, if you’re ten years old anyway!).
Or the more subtle denigration of your views via comments such as:
“Oh you’ve only been here X years, you don’t really understand how things work.”
Uh, yeah, but if the Ecuadorians I know hold similar views then that would suggest I have some idea, no? This kind of straw man argument is common amongst the Correa “lovers” within the online expat community in Ecuador, attacking the person making the comment rather than address the actual topic under discussion.
And “lovers” really does seem the appropriate term. To be so one-eyed about any individual to not even be open to criticising anything they do… it does suggest a particularly intense level of feeling towards that person, no? I did ask once what exactly it would take to make even a single slightly critical comment about Correa. How about if he strangled a small kitten with his bare hands, would that do it? No response.
A healthy democracy is one where dissenting voices can not only be heard but are actively encouraged, where there is no fear of reprisals simply for not towing the prevailing political or social line. But it seems some expats in Ecuador – likely a minority, but a very vocal and at times overtly aggressive minority – are hell bent on doing their best to stifle that idea as best they can (not unlike some of Correa’s more concerning policies I might add…). I would suggest they spend less time on Facebook and more time out in their local non-expat community, and realise that the Ecuadorians themselves want more public debate of politics not less, and more freedom to be able to convey their concerns on – and in some cases disagreement with – certain policies and subjects. May not be quite “Arab Spring” time in Latin America just yet, but the rumblings have begun, helped in no small part by Social Media. Long may it grow and prosper.
Came across this, and was just too appropriate not to add (reinforced by a few of the comments below)…