Correa and his motley bunch of expat zealots

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.

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Added 7/6/15

Came across this, and was just too appropriate not to add (reinforced by a few of the comments below)…

dilbert

12 comments

  1. “A healthy democracy is one where dissenting voices can not only be heard but are actively discouraged” – This stupid mistake should give readers an idea of the calibre of the piece overall.

    This is a content free critique, note that no actual comments from the people the author is attacking are included, or any details of the policies that trouble them, yet they’re the one accusing others of “strawmanning.”

    Every act that is held up by critics of this government as an oppressive anti-free speech maneuver by the president or his supporters is in fact a speech act, like disagreeing with a critic of the government whose analysis is shallow, ignorant and in the president’s words “infantile”.

    The anglo-saxon left is like a dog chasing a car. If it actually caught it it would have no idea what to do and kinda stand round awkwardly. The latin american left has taken driver’s seat and therefore has to work in the realm of viable national policies, which are never painless. The obsessive focus on the relatively (to any country still within the US orbit) tiny problems and social frictions is a symptom of this childlike view of the world amongst so called progressives in the first world, which if it continues, could lead – as much as reactionary aggression- to global disaster.

    Consider, just for a second, that there’s a global conflict at play in ecuador’s domestic politics, and you might be on the wrong side.

    I am screenshotting and will instantly publicize this comment. Please consider this when deciding whether to approve this comment.

    • Funny, the article is not about Correa’s policies at all, but about those who would prefer to attack the person rather than actually stick with the subject (ironic considering your comment). If you must know (though completely irrelevant to this post) I personally am not sure what to make of Correa, and am still trying to gather more information to reach an informed viewpoint (so not really sure what “side” you’re referring too?). But trying to gather that information isn’t easy when your every critical comment of even a part of his policies or his actions is rounded on aggressively by a vocal minority, and very frequently.

  2. “the article is not about Correa’s policies at all” translation: I have no idea what I’m talking about and cannot support my position with facts, despite having mentioned, in the article “Correa’s more concerning policies”.

    “I personally am not sure what to make of Correa,” – Translation: See above.

    “not really sure what “side” you’re referring too?” – Translation: I am so ignorant I don’t even know what the broad strokes of Ecuadorian politics are. I am just bashing the keys because it sounded smart when I said it over craft beer at bandidos micro-brewery and I wanted more of that feeling.

    “[the article is] about those who would prefer to attack the person rather than actually stick with the subject (ironic considering your comment)”
    My argument is a complaint that when I am wrong online people are mean to me. Therefore if anyone disagrees with this piece or criticizes the ignorance displayed in it they are in fact proving my point. Nice move man.

    If you’re interested in actually learning about the subject you’ve decided to write about, here would be a good place to start: http://importantcool.com/ecuador-change-media-change-world-part-1/

    • Congrats, your comments have reinforced what the post actually was about, so thanks for that!

    • Or how about: “Trolls will be trolls”? You have proven my point and then some!

      This really is EXACTLY what I was referring to in a nutshell… I mention some concerns I have about Correa, and rather than counter with some information that (in your view) would “better” inform me, you choose to denigrate me and call me names. Did you truly miss the irony in your comments??

  3. First of all, not sure who started this blog, but guess it is a gringo, and I try to avoid gringos as I find they are usually transplanted Americans—sometimes Canadians bringing their values and ideas from whence they came. I shy away from criticism of this government, as I have lived here less than 3 years, and was never here until 5 years ago. I had friends here in the 60’s and 70’s and it seemed a great place for the wealthy and not much for the rest. Correa is well educated, and I like that. I have spoken to well to do Ecuadorians, and although they will admit he has done some good things, they don’t like him, and of course the reason is taxes. Sounds a lot like Obama. I wold vote “no” on China and the Amazon, but then I have no horse in the race, other than my concern about the environment. But I do not worry about Ecuador’s balance of payments, nor the falling cost of oil, nor its terrible credit rating. These are things that may indirectly effect me, but not like when I had a business that seemed to constantly need more money, and I already owed more than I could repay. That os one of the things you simply have “to live”

    Realizing I was and outsider I have tried not to either criticize or complement the government, realizing I did not have that much information. I lived In Indonesia, called at the time, and I suspect still is, “one of the most corrupt countries in the world”, but once again I was not an Indonesian. I will leave politics in Ecuador to Ecuadorians, and remember I am guest here, even though this is where I chose to die.

    • Appreciate your balanced comments about Correa and your take on him. Not really the subject matter of this blog post, BUT if I had received responses like yours to my questions and/or concerns about aspects of Correa’s government there would likely have never been a reason to write this blog post. 😉

      (and I do have a “horse in the race” – love that expression – as I have an Ecuadorian partner…)

  4. “I mention some concerns I have about Correa”, What? Where? As in my first comment I point out again that your critique is content free. You say almost nothing about the actual policies except that he’s “selling off very large tracts of Amazon wilderness to oil companies” – which is not accurate. He’s selling oil drilling concessions, not the land. Some countries that ARE selling off vast tracts of land to foreign interests, to the detriment of their own people. Try and be accurate and people will be less mean to you on the internet.

    “…and rather than counter with some information that (in your view) would “better” inform me,” Actually in my second comment I provided this link: http://importantcool.com/ecuador-change-media-change-world-part-1/ which is the first of two articles a colleague and fellow expat wrote and I edited about the very issues your discussing, only with actual facts, and actual quotes from the people whose positions we are critiquing.

    Did you see the link?

    I challenge you to read it (the whole thing, both parts, it might be a challenge) before posting further online about the issues. I know that might seem like a lot of work to you but for people who intend to be taken seriously research is part of the game.

    On behalf of my soon to be born Ecuadorian son, I ask you to take the issues you’re discussing more seriously.

    • Finally a comment with substance rather than denigration. Been few and far between in my desire to find out more about the Ecuadorian political situation. And apologies if I might have missed any substance in your initial comments between such things as being called stupid and similar. Which, as I said, did confirm the point this blog post was making.

  5. Motley? I am being referred to as “motley? Hmmmmm…that’s new. Thought I’d heard about everything else. You know, if you can’t attack the man, because his success record is obviously amazing…then go after his foreign-based followers, so you don’t seem anti-Ecuadorian. I welcome being part of Correa’s “motley crew” (Hey, maybe we can start a band…what? Motley Crue is taken…nevermind). Btw, framing what is going on as Correa “selling off the Amazon” is beyond misleading. Land was taken away from polluters like Chevron, by Correa. They were not welcomed in by Correa, but rather his predecessors…who…well…pretty much sold off Ecuador to foreign interests at pennies on the dollar…then indebted the Ecuadorian populace with the bill. You know, before the economic collapse. Anyways, Correa is merely repositioning that land into more responsible hands. The opposition can’t offer one fresh idea…so, they do all that they can…set up strawmen…and attack.

    • Don’t recall Hector, if you have responded to alternative opinions than yours with information rather than personal attacks and denigration then this blog post wouldn’t be about you at all.

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