Why Ecuador matters!!
We just witnessed part 1 of the presidential race in Ecuador, where thanks to a divided opposition, the government-backed candidate Lenin Moreno secured participation in the run-off election scheduled for April 2nd.
Guillermo Lasso, a former banker representing the much-divided antigovernment camp, was able to attract about 29% of the vote. It is expected that he will be able to galvanize most voters behind his candidacy to do away with yet another member of the Latin American populist alliance established by the deceased president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez.
Should he fail to achieve such goal then the democratic revival in Latin America may slowdown.
Many would ask why would such a small and rather inconsequential country carry such weight in regional politics.
The reason of course is geopolitics. Geographically speaking, South America is an immense island divided into three different and well separated regions.
The Eastern Region with its boundaries created by God and nature with the Amazon jungle. This region encompasses Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.
The Northern region encircled by the last spell of the Andean Cordillera which encircles Venezuela and Colombia.
The Southern part which is skinny and long goes from Ecuador to Chile. In this third region, only Ecuador is a populist fan. Peru and Chile are working, vibrant democracies constantly building a middle class while deepening freedoms.
Should Ecuador remain populist then economic integration would stall.
Without integration, probabilities for the region to raise competition to standards of pacific nations are rather low.
Populism would also stand in the way of following Peru's leadership in its savvy approach to the United States and in its no nonsense approach to development.
As a result, the Southern part of South America would fail to consolidate the much-needed development pole that can positively impact the Eastern region of South America.
But where perhaps the results from the Ecuador presidential race will weigh strongest is in the Northern Region.
Because an axis of evil seems to be emerging in that corner of the South American island.
This has to do with the most successful illicit endeavor ever undertaken in the Americas: drug trade.
As drug production, distribution and marketing began to experience the beneficial impact of globalization, the activity initiated its unstoppable march towards economic integration of Venezuela and Colombia. Globalization resulted in more effective communications means, access to lethal weapons to defend the trade and exuberant financing to engage in wholesale bribery.
Little by little the logics of the business took over the institutional framework first of Venezuela as its leadership embarked on an alliance with the FARC whose business model sprang from drug exploitation.
But now the process is about to get to Colombia through elections in which FARC-backed candidates will enjoy a financial support not available to any other organization.
Should Ecuador elect Mr. Lenin Moreno -- whose close relations with FARC have been well-documented -- the Northern Region of South America would become the new Vice Royalty of New Granada integrated through drugs.