Ecuador: Correa Claims Fraud

A group of Ecuadorian citizens show an election ballot allegedly found in a park after the election, during a protest in front of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in Quito. (Photo: Rodrigo Buendia / AFP-Getty Images)

On Oct. 15, Ecuador went to the polls. Having seen eight presidents in 10 years, three of whom were overthrown by a population frustrated by the corruption, ineptitude, and nepotism that characterize Ecuador's elite, the chances of any government lasting out its mandate seem slim. However, the challenge could be in getting one of the 13 presidential candidates even legitimately elected.

First counts showed the radical left-wing economist, Rafael Correa, and two-time runner-up, billionaire banana magnate Alvaro Noboa, neck-and-neck with around 25 percent each — until the voting machines, supplied by Brazilian company E-Vote, broke down.

When E-Vote declared that it was unable to count the last 30 percent of votes, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (T.S.E.) rescinded its contract, and Correa, who had been polling well over 30 percent immediately before the election, claimed that a fraud had been perpetrated. Many of the other parties have echoed his claims.

A subsequent recount by the T.S.E. confirmed a margin of 26 percent to 23 percent in favor of Noboa. However, Correa's party, Alianza Pais ("Country Alliance") has produced what it claims is evidence of systematic fraud, including photographs of members of Noboa's PRIAN (Renovador Institucional) party at polling booths marking and removing hundreds of ballots.

Prensa Latina reported that up to 10 percent of the votes are missing in Guayas Province, and that altered ballots have been discovered. The T.S.E. and other electoral tribunals are presided over by members of PRIAN and the right-wing Social Christian Party.

The current election, which will now go into a second round run-off on Nov. 26, has polarized Ecuador's 13 million inhabitants, over half of whom still live in poverty, despite Ecuador's formidable oil industry.

Correa, a friend of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez and a critic of Washington (calling President George W. Bush a "dimwit"), is running on a platform that would give the president the power to dissolve Congress (an institution that recent polls indicate over 90 percent of Ecuadorians have no trust in, regarding it to be a tool of the traditional parties rather than an effective parliament), and convoke a constituent assembly to "re-found" the country.

A former finance minister, Correa also wants to rewrite oil contracts with foreign companies in order to priorities social and infrastructure spending over paying off the country's $10 billion foreign debt. When he attempted this last year, strong opposition from the right-wing congress and lack of support from the president led to his resignation as a minister.

His main campaign slogan, "dale correa" ("give them a belting"), taps into the widespread discontent with the traditional parties. He is opposed to a free-trade agreement with the U.S., which would endanger Ecuador's struggling agricultural sector, and has proposed a program of national development for the country and a regional currency to strengthen the Latin American market in relation to the U.S.

Correa has already initiated a campaign for a referendum to convoke a constituent assembly. He has made a call for unity among progressive forces, to organize for a resounding victory in the second round.

Noboa could not be more different. A supporter of "free trade," he has been traversing the country with a Bible under his arm, evangelizing, handing out money, wheelchairs, computers, and medicine, and promising to create employment. He claims that God has sent him to become president.

Human Rights Watch has criticized Noboa's extensive banana plantations for the use of child labor, and violent union-busting tactics.

Noboa has attacked Correa's friendship with Chavez and support for building a "socialism for the 21st century," accusing him of being a "communist devil." He has also promised to cut off diplomatic ties with Venezuela and Cuba if elected.

From Green Left Weekly.