Ecuador: Why did ex-President Rafael Correa leave the ruling party?

What does this mean for Ecuadorian politics?

Ecuador: Why did ex-President Rafael Correa leave the ruling party?

Ecuador's political landscape may have changed forever this week, as former President Rafael Correa announced his intention to split away from the country's most powerful party and continue a "Citizens’ Revolution" on his own — one that he claims will end a coup d’état.

Correa has removed himself from Alianza PAIS, the left-wing coalition that currently has possession of the presidency and a majority of the country's legislative branch, the National Assembly. If Correa can take enough supporters with him in starting a new party, he could fracture the country's strong, left-wing movement that has won the last four consecutive presidential elections. Some members of Alianza PAIS think that may not be such a bad idea. 

The announcement represents the culmination of nearly a year of inter-party conflict rooted in a burgeoning political rivalry between Correa and current President Lenin Moreno, who served as his Vice President between 2007 and 2013. Moreno openly criticized Correa's alleged mishandling of the country's debt, which he said was manipulated to surpass the constitutional limit. Moreno has also demonstrated a willingness to work with the opposition political alliance, CREO, in the National Assembly, and to even pass some of its legislation, which Correa and his most faithful supporters consider a betrayal.

As these tensions mounted last November, a small fraction of Alianza PAIS members decided to vote President Moreno out of the leadership position of the party, citing his failure to attend various council meetings. However, a court later rejected the decision, arguing that not enough members of the party were present to take a proper vote. In a subsequent tally, 44 members of the National Assembly reportedly expressed their support for him.

The court rejected an appeal to the decision this week, which had been submitted by Assembly member Gabriela Rivadeneira, and that looks to have been the last straw for Correa. "They can rob us of Alianza PAIS, but not of our will and convictions," he said in response to the court decision. "Despite the pain, this only makes us stronger."

Correa has been "burning through the soles" of his shoes since January, campaigning against Moreno's "Popular Consultation" — a referendum scheduled for this February. It has seven questions that let Ecuadorians decide whether they want to make significant changes to the constitution. One of the questions deals with regulation of indigenous land, deforestation and other work in protected territories. Another would change regulations to mineral mining. 

Most importantly to Correa, the Popular Consultations' third question will allow the country to decide whether it wants to remove term limits for elected officials — meaning that President Moreno, and others, could hypothetically stay in office forever. If the country votes "Yes," Correa said, it would be the end of democracy in Ecuador. 

"I hope Ecuador and the entire world understands we are facing a coup d’état," he said last November. 

Whether the rest of the country, and members of Alianza PAIS, agree with Correa's assessment has yet to be determined. With a new party to face off against Alianza PAIS and President Moreno, it's possible that Correa will pose a serious threat to the Popular Consultation, Ecuador's left and anyone he may meet in future elections. 


Latin American Post | Max Radwin

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda

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