While a new generation of leftist leaders is profoundly transforming Latin America, Florent Zemmouche interviewed Rafael Correa. According to the former Ecuadorian president, although the sequence does not redefine the balances, it does change the direction of political action in the region. The next step, if Lula were elected in Brazil, would be to form a bloc to create a monetary union.
Florent Zemmouche: How do you analyze the indigenous demonstrations that took place in Ecuador over 18 days?
Rafael Correa: There are immediate causes and more removed causes. The immediate cause is the total failure of Lasso. His government is a democratic fraud and has been a disaster. It has made the country one of the most dangerous in the region whereas we were the second safest country during my time in office. In addition to this, there have been several corruption scandals: the “Pandora Papers” alone would have been enough for the president to resign. This outraged people.
But it is true that there are also more removed causes. We are going back to the old way of doing politics and that is why I do not agree with the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). CONAIE supported Lasso and his neoliberal agenda in the last presidential election. To fight against the neoliberal agenda one year later is not democratic. We have to fight against rights violations, against corruption, against lies, against the failure of the government. But if the demonstrators themselves supported a neoliberal agenda, they can’t demand something else a year later. CONAIE has always done this; they did it to me. In 2013, I proposed taking advantage of every drop of oil, every gram of gold with full social and environmental responsibility to bring the country out of underdevelopment. My rival in CONAIE was Alberto Acosta who proposed exactly the opposite: no to mining, no to oil. We beat him 20 to one, I received almost 60% and he received 3%. However, two months later, CONAIE blocked the way in order to impose their program on us. They have to establish whether they live in a democracy or not. They cannot impose their agenda by force.
That is the illegitimate part. That said, there is a legitimate part due to the failure of Lasso’s government and the brutal repression that has taken place. No one can accept this, no matter how illegitimate the protests are, no one can accept this repression. But we must understand that in the 21st century, the struggle — which the left is so fond of talking about — now seems more like an end than a means, it seems to be the destination and not the path. The struggle is the votes. There are many myths about struggle being the only way to advance rights. This is not true. Of course, rights are also achieved through struggle, and there are historical struggles such as those against racial segregation or for women’s rights. But in ten years in Ecuador, from 2007 to 2017, minimum wages, labor rights, education, health, equity, growth, prosperity, dignity have more than doubled. In other words, it was done by voting well. We need to understand that we are in a democratic system and that the issue is to vote well.
“we must understand that in the 21st century, the struggle — which the left is so fond of talking about — now seems more like an end than a means, it seems to be the destination and not the path. The struggle is the votes”
FZ: What do you think of the agreement that was signed to stop — or at least temporarily pause — the protests? Some ministers and senior officials in Lasso’s entourage have resigned. Who is winning at this point?
RC: We are all losers. We are losing perspective. We hear “7 dead, not more”. Tell that to the father of the 17-year-old boy who was killed. It’s like nothing happened. “Oh well, it wasn’t 11 dead, we only have 7 dead, it was less costly”. 18 days of strikes, 7 deaths! There are people who lost their eyes, we saw extreme violence, destruction of public and private property to get 15 cents off the price of fuel. We have lost all perspective. What has happened to us? Those human lives are worth much more than those 15 cents. I think this is a loss for everyone: for the government, which fared very badly, but also for CONAIE, which cannot turn a country upside down to get a 15-cent price cut on gas. Now we have to look for a way out of the impasse that they themselves created because they were foolish and irresponsible, because they did something without weighing the consequences. Our candidate did not win because of this ideological null vote that they imposed, and they made Lasso the president, they were in favor of neoliberalism and afterwards — now — they are against neoliberalism. They have to decide whether they want to live in a democracy or not.
FZ- Although the situation is still fragile (90 days have been granted to ascertain whether the promises are kept), will the government keep its promises, and will there be a change of course? Would you say that this political crisis is over or that it is the first sign of a lasting situation?
RC: It’s the modus operandi, I would say. Look, there is a characteristic that we have to take into account, and the left is going to demonize me because of it, even though I am a leftist. But there are cultural anti-values that have not allowed us to overcome underdevelopment. One of these anti-values is that we don’t know how to manage power. Give power to a Latin American and he will use it for his own benefit, not to serve others. Give him a military epaulette and he will crush others. But to give power to a public union is to harm the state, let’s not fool ourselves. The indigenous peoples have power and the ability to mobilize, but they don’t know how to use it. They often use it to impose things that are wrong or illegitimate, because we are in a democratic system. They have reverted to those practices that, unfortunately, brought this very country to its knees and that have done us so much harm. This is not the way. In the 21st century, the way is to vote well.
FZ- You’ve said repeatedly that we need to “vote well,” what does that mean? Apart from the CONAIE vote, what was missing in the election campaign that delivered the victory to Lasso?
RC: There is something fundamental to consider. The entire leadership of Revolución Ciudadana is exiled, imprisoned or persecuted. Who is talking about this? We are suffering a terrible lawfare of rights and it seems that nothing is happening. We have a vice president in prison, we have a president who was convicted for “psychic influence” only hours before he registered as a candidate. That’s why they kept me out of the country and made Lasso the president, because if I had been in the country, it would have been a totally different situation. It appears that nothing is happening, it seems that everyone is forgetting that in 2018 they took control of all the state institutions with a manipulated, unconstitutional vote. The National Electoral Council wanted to eliminate us up to the last moment. We could not start the campaign because we did not even know if we would be able to participate. It seems that we have forgotten all these things, all these traps and all that we had to face with a corrupt press that stole democracy from us. The press used to be the guardian of the truth and now, in Latin America, the press is the main thief of the truth. And without truth, there are no free elections, because the press manipulates and orchestrates corrupt campaigns. Despite all this, we are so strong that we should have won.
However, there have been internal errors, partly because of lawfare, because of the absence of long-time leaders. I am talking about the entire leadership of the Citizens’ Revolution. I have eight ministers in Mexico who were prosecuted, hundreds of criminal cases, hundreds of civil cases, people who went bankrupt and got out of politics because they had to sell everything to support their families because of the persecution. That’s how they neutralize you. And there was a lot of internal conflict among the long-time leaders, a lot of internal contradictions, and that also helped Lasso to win. In spite of everything, we should have won, we lost because of our own mistakes, but it is not possible to ignore all the persecution, the cheating, the lack of democracy in the country.
FZ- What do you think should be done? What would be the solution to emerge from the crisis?
RC: What I want is for this lawfare to stop. They know I can beat them. They stopped me from being re-elected president through a shrewd referendum. What does the world say about this? In Nicaragua or Venezuela, it would have been a global scandal. What did they say about Ecuador? They stole our reputation, our freedom, our political rights, they stole our democracy. They stole our democracy.
So how do we resolve the conflict? By bringing democracy back to the country, so that people can vote for whoever they want. Let me be a candidate, let us beat them and take back the country. They are preventing democracy and people must be able to freely choose in Ecuador.
FZ- Beyond individuals, and speaking more about structures, are we facing a paradigm shift or at least a will to change the political paradigm?
RC: Politics in Latin America are visceral, not cerebral. And this is very serious. Development is a political process. Politics is essential for development. The main cause of our underdevelopment is bad politics, which is defined as the rational way in which a society makes decisions about collective action. Within those collective action decisions, there is a choice. But if we vote and decide on collective action irrationally, or rationally on the basis of only a few groups, we are not making progress. That is why it is also necessary to change the balance of power.
In any case, a better quality of politics is needed to move forward. Just look at the events that have taken place in Latin America: Evo Morales in Bolivia won with 48% and suffered a coup d’état. But what was Bolivia before Evo Morales? Evo Morales should have won with 120%. As for us, we should have won with 80%. And we did win, but not with 80% because people, especially with the help of the press, manipulate, the right wing will hate you. That was our situation because they didn’t overpower us. And hate trumps the logic of reason. I can hate a person but if they move my country forward and my goal is the welfare of the country, then I will support them. Instead, we see the opposite.
“The main cause of our underdevelopment is bad politics, which is defined as the rational way in which a society makes decisions about collective action”
FZ- Do you think that we can also talk about, beyond the indigenous protests, some underlying popular desire to turn to or return to neo-statism?
RC: Yes, but not because of the pandemic. There are deeper causes. We have a lot of popular support, but powerful enemies. The popular support is the support of the weak; the tactical, economic, military, religious, social and foreign powers are against us. Therefore, it is very difficult to move a country forward because it is very easy to boycott and destroy. We must carry this passion; we must carry the country and the common good in our hearts.
In relation to what you mention, I don’t think that this return of the left, of the progressive wave, is a consequence of Covid, it is rather a consequence of what was sown before. In 2014, there was an onslaught of conservatives that we call the conservative restoration. There were very successful progressive programs, but in 10 years, it is impossible not to have a case of corruption, which is then taken out of context to be able to generalize and say that it is all corruption. My government was the most successful in Latin America in fighting corruption. You only have to look at the international transparency rankings, we went from 150 to 120. There are World Bank statistics: we have moved up 30 places.
But the exercise of power wears you out. A right-wing party took advantage of this, the change in international conditions in 2015-2016, the price of raw materials changed, and it was an opportunity to say, with the support of the press, that the policies of the left were a failure. This is how the conservative restoration was born, often through undemocratic methods as in Brazil, Bolivia, along with treason in Ecuador and democratic fraud. It cannot be said that there was any true democracy in Latin America at that time. What can be said is that this right wing was the troubling legacy of the press. As long as the role of the press is not analyzed, we will not have democracy or development.
But something had been sown beforehand and now people have a means of comparison: after four or five years, these right-wing governments have been a total failure. We compare and then the progressive governments come back. There is a new progressive wave in Latin America, but not because of Covid, but because something was sown and now people can compare.
FZ- Covid was not the cause, but what was its role, was it a kind of accelerator?
RC: Yes, I think Covid has proven progressivism to be right. If homo sapiens has prevailed over stronger species, it is due to cooperation. But they want to impose competition on us. This is absurd. If you believe in competition, individualism and liberalism, it must at least be with a reasonable precondition of equal opportunity, which Latin America has never had. The most absurd system for Latin America is liberalism based on competition. This is what they want to impose on us because it always favors the interests of the strongest. The financial elites of Latin America have systems that serve their interests, not the common good.
Covid has proven us right about the need for the State, for collective action, for the guarantee of rights, for things that are not commodities, such as health, the need to coordinate efforts to have research. Latin America had to beg for vaccines. We are 600 million people, we represent 9% of the world population and we have to beg for vaccines because we are not able to produce the necessary technology to save lives, for our people. If the crisis has shown us anything, it is that we must walk on our own two feet. It has shown us the importance of collective action, the importance of the state and the importance of rights. Health cannot be a commodity.
FZ: We will see what happens with Brazil, but there is no doubt that we can already see a new shift to the left in the region. You experienced the “pink tide” that took shape twenty years ago. What are the differences compared to this new phase of what has been called a second generation of progressivism?
RC: This is a big question. There are two basic things. First of all, I think that this is now a left that is more “light”, that speaks less clearly. We had called ourselves the carnivorous left — the vegetarian left was Pepe Mujica or Lula. But it’s not that we seek confrontation for the sake of confrontation, but with a reality as unjust as that of Latin America, if you want to fix it, there will be confrontation. I wonder if Lincoln would have been able to free the slaves without confronting the slaveholders. Was he ever going to free them by acquiescing to the slaveholders? No, they must be confronted. This is the reality of Latin America, there are exploited people, there are those who exploit, and in order to change this exploitation, we must confront each other.
I see that this is being talked about less clearly now. For example, we speak less clearly about foreign interference, which does exist. I think that we are avoiding confrontation and that in order to remedy the unjust realities of Latin America, we must confront the democracy of consensus and fight against the systematic exclusion of groups such as indigenous peoples. These systems have been a failure, they only exclude. They are perverse and terribly unjust, undemocratic systems that have only benefited a few. And they must be confronted to change that. I am not hearing this, I see a much lighter left. I sincerely believe that this is a mistake.
Secondly, it is also true that they are already facing a better prepared right. When we started these destabilization efforts, the right had no discourse or arguments, they were blindsided. Clearly, this ended in 2014, and we said as much. At that time, the right already had national and international coordination, infinite resources, as well as coordination with far-right groups in the United States and funding through the National Endowment for Democracy. They said, “socialism failed and long live imperialism”, “we were Switzerland, and everything was ruined by socialist policies” to deceive people with short memories. Now this left is facing a much more armed right, much more prepared, with whom change will be more difficult.
FZ: Could we think of what you call a lighter left as a consequence of having to face a better prepared right?
RC: It is possible, but what we need to examine is the intellectual honesty of political action. Why go into politics? To get a job or to change reality? If you are not willing to risk your life, at least for those of us who have politics as a mission, there is no point. For the left, politics must be a mission. What is that mission? To achieve the “good life”. 200 years of underdevelopment is enough. If you don’t have this vision, this vocation, if you are not ready to give your life to change reality, why are you going into office?
FZ: Francia Márquez has specifically talked about “vivir sabroso” — an expression that, with Paul Magnette, we could translate as “la vie large” or “to live life to the utmost”, quoting Jean Jaurès. Would you say that Colombia also has a “light left”?
RC: No, Gustavo Petro is not from the light left, he is a guerrilla. Of course, he had to win the election and moderate his discourse a bit, but there are things that I think we can talk about that are mistakes. For example, regarding extractivism, what would Bolivia be without extractivism? Do they have to give up their natural resources? No. They should use them with a maximum of environmental and social responsibility. This is a great opportunity for Latin America, which can develop without the enormous exploitation of labor that developing countries like South Korea or Singapore have had to endure. Natural resources are a great opportunity.
But then, with these issues, you don’t decide if the left is light. It is not light when it responds to the need for confrontation, without seeking conflict in itself, but only when it is necessary to change extremely unjust historical constructs. And Petro is not a light left.
“This is a great opportunity for Latin America, which can develop without the enormous exploitation of labor that developing countries like South Korea or Singapore have had to endure. Natural resources are a great opportunity”
FZ- Is there a need for some kind of leadership among these leftist governments? From López Obrador? Could Petro have a role to play?
RC: We cannot ignore reality. If Lula wins in Brazil, he will be in charge, because Brazil is half of Latin America, the third part.
FZ- And is that good or bad?
RC: It is what it is. The important thing is the type of leadership he shows, if he tries to give opportunities and serve others, or if he tries to impose his own standards, priorities and interests. What would be fantastic is something we did not achieve in the first progressive wave: if Lula wins in Brazil and Alberto Fernández — or progressivism — remains in Argentina, the four largest economies in Latin America will have left-wing governments. Brazil is the most important, followed by Mexico, Colombia and Argentina. These four left-wing governments are unique in history.
FZ- If Lula wins, if he assumes regional leadership, should things be done differently from what was done in the first wave?
RC: Of course, mistakes can always be corrected. I don’t think we have made enough progress with the new integral regional financial architecture: the Bank of the South, the Monetary Fund of the South, exchange systems to move towards an accounting currency and then a physical currency. And now Lula is talking about this.
FZ- What do you think of this proposal for a common currency?
We proposed it in 2008. It was our proposal in UNASUR and I think it is necessary for Latin America to move towards a monetary bloc in order to protect ourselves and our currency and, in the long run, to move towards a Latin American and South American monetary union. And, paradoxically, the country that would need such a currency the least because of its size is Brazil. It is excellent news that it is the potential future president of Brazil who is proposing it.
FZ- Should regional integration involve a common currency?
RC: It must be achieved. A monetary union must be a goal of integration, as it is in Europe.
FZ- How can this common currency be established?
RC: We need to proceed in stages, like the European Union, although in a slightly different way. First, for example, there should be a single currency for accounting purposes only, and trade should be compensable. This would enable the use of foreign currencies to be minimized. Then there can be an accounting currency, not a physical currency. Then I think we should move to a dual currency system: the new currency plus the national currency. And gradually, after we have proven the validity of the new regional currency, we should move to a single currency system. I think we have to go step by step and it will not be easy.
FZ- Will this confrontational method you mentioned be necessary to implement even these steps?
RC: We have to understand that autonomous central banks are part of the instruments of domination. Before the 1990s, there were no autonomous central banks in Latin America. This is the worst kind of nonsense. They say that monetary policy is technical. No, it is political first and foremost, and after that it is technical. Otherwise, if we follow this argument, we should also make the ministries of finance autonomous because fiscal policy is also technical. It’s absurd. It is just a means of domination: no matter who wins elections, monetary policy will remain unchanged, because central banks are autonomous from their people, but totally dependent on Washington. Therefore, some people will not want to get rid of these instruments because with a regional currency, central banks will lose power. Depreciation has been used to benefit certain sectors. So an instrument that has been used by certain power groups to maintain their privileges will be lost. There will be a very serious conflict of interest.
FZ- Is this why you suggest a gradual implementation?
RC: This would make the system change involved in moving to a regional currency less traumatic. I think it is necessary. Be careful, you will say that I am contradicting myself because I am stressing the importance of a national currency. Money is the main mechanism of social and ecological coordination; by giving or withdrawing credit with money, it is possible to revive or contract an economy, to develop a sector or to prevent it. You will tell me that this is lost with a regional currency. No, because it is a common currency. You lose some, but not all, but at the same time you avoid risks such as the weak currencies of our small countries in the open economy of neoliberal globalization. So, of course, you sacrifice some autonomy and monetary management, but on the other hand, you protect yourself from the weakness of a small country’s national currency.
FZ- If all these factors align, will UNASUR and its plan for full integration be a reality?
RC: It is almost certain that if Lula wins in Brazil, UNASUR will return. To restore UNASUR, six countries are needed. We already have these six countries, but with the crucial impetus of Brazil. Moreover, Lula was the founder of UNASUR.
FZ- Do you think that all of UNASUR’s proposals can still work?
RC: More than ever. Europeans will have to explain to their children why they united and we will have to explain to our children why it took us so long to do so. As countries with the same history, the same political system, the same culture, the same religion, there is much more that unites us than the small things that separate us. Greater integration is neither sufficient nor necessary for development, but it is highly desirable.
FZ- López Obrador has already raised the possibility of creating something like the European Union in Latin America. Do you think this is a good example?
RC: Yes, it is a good example, I am not afraid to say it. There are 28 countries, now 27, with different political systems, different religions, different cultures, and wars, but they had the will to unite and they succeeded. And very successfully. So, of course, this is an example for Latin America. Our union is much more simple, it has far fewer obstacles than the European Union, but this will is lacking.
FZ- This will is lacking, but paradoxically, is it not also because it is so obvious and so simple that it has not happened?
RC: I would say, yes, that there are many internal factors with caudillismo, personal ambitions, and ideological fundamentalism. However, although I do not support the conspiracy theory and the theorization that the United States is the bad guy and that they are the ones who have to change because we are the good guys, there is a conspiracy here, because the United States does not want an integrated Latin America. Washington will always try to boycott Latin American integration.
FZ- Regarding the Summit of the Americas: although it was unquestionably a failure, can we also say that it allowed us to see a certain Latin American cohesion in reaction to the announcement of the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua?
RC: Of course, this is the fruit of the new left. We already did this at the 2012 summit in Cartagena which I did not attend and where I announced that we would never again participate in a summit of the Americas without Cuba, because Cuba is part of America, and no one has the right to say who is or is not part of America. Let us also note the hypocrisy that with the Pinochet dictatorship there was no problem. They say that it is a dictatorship if it is left-wing and so the country should even be excluded from the Americas.
Ecuador has never been more present than at the 2012 summit in Cartagena. In 2014, for the first time, Cuba participated in the Summit of the Americas. To revisit that past and allow Biden to say who is American and who is not, who can go and who cannot go, who is the leader of a country and who is not, is too insulting. The outcry, then, comes mainly from progressive governments. And the right says nothing. Unfortunately, the right-wing governments have lost their sense of dignity to say that, regardless of political stripe, no one can dictate who is American and who is not. So I think it was a dignified and sovereign response, a consequence of the new progressive wave that Latin America is experiencing.
FZ- How, precisely, can right-wing governments be included in this new phase of regional integration?
RC: Integration must go beyond ideological questions. The European Union today is more liberal than the United States, but at the beginning of the European Union there were nuances among a wide variety of visions that shared a common denominator. In the 21st century, democracy and human rights are things that go beyond left or right. So is the desire for integration. In fact, UNASUR was founded by presidents from the right and the extreme right, namely Álvaro Uribe, Alán García, and then Piñera, but they all shared this desire for integration. The debate then became so polarized, with so much visceral hatred, that integration had to be destroyed because it was supposedly a left-wing discourse. No, integration should be a Latin American discourse.
FZ- And do you see this integration discourse in right-wing governments now?
RC: No, they are trying to boycott it, responding to the interests of the United States, which does not want the integration of Latin America. They want integration, but it is a different form of integration, it is not a nation of nations as Simon Bolívar dreamed of, like the former Unasur with South American citizenship. What they want is merely a large market, like the Mercosur that was founded in the 1990s, like the neoliberal globalization of PROSUR. For them, integration is a big market. In other words, for them it is not about having South American citizens but just consumers.
FZ- What does the Summit of the Americas tell us about the Biden administration’s Latin American policy?
RC: It shows that American foreign policy has a life of its own. With Biden becoming president, there has been a change in personnel, not policy. Trump is a bad person, an awful guy. I don’t think Biden is a bad person, I know him, just as Obama was not a bad person. But it’s possible that they all agree on foreign policy issues. American foreign policy has almost a life of its own and does not change with the administration. And this policy of domination towards Latin America has been terrible, and always according to US interests. And this is legitimate, the policy of defending your interests, but it must include the defense of the rights of others. This is not the case here, it is a matter of exclusion. It’s my interests and that’s it, if I have to crush others for those interests, I will crush them. And that has always been the policy of the United States for the Americas, under the Monroe Doctrine.
FZ- To this policy of American interests in Latin America could there also be added a certain ignorance of the region?
RC: I studied in the United States and I greatly admire the Anglo-Saxon culture and the success of the United States. We don’t have the creditworthiness to criticize the United States. They developed, not us, and we had almost the same starting conditions. But they have a problem, they believe that the planet begins and ends in the United States. They have great values and great anti-values. They even consider their anti-values to be universal. That’s the problem with the United States, they believe that their values are universal, they believe that what is good for them is good for everyone. Unfortunately, the various leaders of the United States are not exempt from this view and there is a great misunderstanding, not only of Latin America, but also of the rest of the world, but especially of Latin America. And a good person can make mistakes and participate in bad mechanisms because they are part of that mechanism.
FZ- We published an interview in our review about the future of the progressive left in Latin America, in which Ernesto Samper said: “Nobody disputes the failure of the neoliberal model, but I think that people expect something more from us, that we should offer an alternative model”. Do you think that the new progressive governments have truly succeeded in formulating a new model for the region or is it just a rejection of the right, so to speak?
RC: I don’t agree with what Ernesto says, whom I respect very much. Because, first of all, ask the people of Latin America to define neoliberalism: only 2% of them can do it. Second, the problem is that liberalism and neoliberalism are excellent marketing tools. Liberalism, freedom… who is against freedom? But for them, freedom is non-intervention, and non-intervention when you have a 200 kg man and a 50 kg man is a massacre. Non-intervention with such uneven realities as Latin America has is exploitation. For us, freedom is non-domination and for that, collective action, the State, must intervene to ensure equal opportunities. People don’t understand this. They say fewer taxes, less state, less public spending when public spending is their education and their health. Don’t be fooled, liberalism, with its whole propaganda machine, is a great marketing tool. There are people who buy this product and it is difficult to explain what it really is.
FZ- So how do we explain it?
RC: This is our political task. It’s a very difficult, totally asymmetrical, fight; the whole media exists to serve the status quo. There has never been a more technical government than mine in the history of the country. I was the first economist president of the region, but because we were not liberals, because we were populists, we gave the impression that we were demagogues, wasteful spenders, when never before have public resources been managed so efficiently and with such vision. So it’s very difficult, because there is this huge apparatus that discredits anything that is a danger to the status quo, destroys any alternative discourse and legitimizes the dominant discourse that liberalism is the only way with a government that is unpopular but does the right thing, fiscal ownership, cutting taxes, minimizing the state. Whereas trying to create equality, rights, opportunities, that’s populism. It’s very difficult to fight against that, but it has to be done.
FZ- How could you formulate this alternative model?
RC: It is awareness, through a permanent struggle, also of the discourse, which is best carried out from power. I had much more credibility than the press. I gave weekly reports, not only to inform, but also to train, because the media does not only inform, it trains. It’ s the main education source, and it’s in private hands. They tell you what to believe, what not to believe. How do you deal with that? The best way is power, which is what we had. I used to do press conferences every Saturday and I had much more credibility than the media. They stole our power. It’s a hard fight, but it has to be fought. We have a terrible media filter. The only news about us in the media is bad news or fake news. The fight is very hard, and it has to do with the media, we can’t ignore it. And every time I talk about this, I am considered an enemy of free speech. No, I am an enemy of bad journalism, which has deprived us of democracy and the possibility to develop, which is a global problem, but a very serious one, especially in Latin America.
“It’s a hard fight, but it has to be fought. We have a terrible media filter. The only news about us in the media is bad news or fake news. The fight is very hard, and it has to do with the media, we can’t ignore it”
FZ- You mentioned the extractivist model, don’t you think there are other models that could also include the energy transition?
RC: Of course. We must use extractivism to get out of it. The only basic economy with infinite resources is the economy of human talent, we have understood this from the beginning. Where do you find the resources to give all the scholarships we have given? These are natural resources. We need to develop other areas by investing in future human talent, but also in other non-polluting productive areas, such as tourism, or the cultural industry, which we have strongly focused on, but for this we need some initial resources. Let’s not talk about the folly of stopping oil or closing down mines; by doing so, we would certainly move away from extractivism, but it would be to return to the pre-modern harvest economy. This is absurd.
FZ- What should the relationship be with the Biden administration? Ecuador expressed interest in negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States, but was informed that Washington was against it. Ecuador began FTA negotiations with China last February. Is it necessary to have a main actor on the international scene?
RC: Why should there be a main actor if we are a community of countries sharing the same planet? No one can claim the position of main actor for themselves. The United States is 50 countries united, the most successful union in the history of humanity, the most powerful country in history, and it has an obvious influence. China is the most populous country. But this does not mean that others are going to be invisible. Everyone must have their space. We live in a participatory world, and a multipolar one at that. In any case, what should our relationship with the United States be? Mutual respect. I studied in the United States, I admire the United States very much. But because I criticize American policy, I am an enemy of the United States. Because I cannot ignore history or erase it, I am an enemy of the United States. I am not an enemy of anyone, I am a friend to my people. But for that, we must have our feet firmly on the ground and not seek confrontation for the sake of confrontation. But when we have to defend the interests of our countries, we must state this and, in that sense, resist policies that do not suit us and that are imposed from outside.
As far as the free trade agreement is concerned, this relationship is not going in that direction. For the right, the only relationship is the trade relationship. We are not against trade either, we are against this new open policy. The creator of modern protectionism is the United States. Protectionism is necessary for development. You have to protect fledgling industry or it is destroyed. If you want a child to run 100 meters, you wait until he is trained and 20 years old. If you make him run right away at 5 years old, he will be crushed. It’s as simple as that.
In any case, a country without a national currency seeking a free trade agreement is suicide. It’s not even ideological, it’s technical. In principle, it’s less serious with the United States because we have the same currency, but with China, which has a national currency, entering into a free trade agreement means destroying our national industry. But that doesn’t matter to Lasso in his fanaticism and for his special interests because he doesn’t know the small textile producers who are going to be overwhelmed by the Chinese industry. On the other hand, the big importers will benefit, but only in the short term, because without employment and without domestic production there is no income, and without income there is no consumption, neither for the imports nor for the importers themselves. But in their ambition and their clumsiness they don’t understand this because they are ultimately very unprepared people. One of the problems of the Latin American elites is that, in addition to being selfish and greedy, they are ignorant. So the formula for disaster is: no national currency, a fixed exchange rate, and a free trade agreement. The Achilles heel of developing countries is the external sector. You have to have trade measures, tariffs, quotas, and so on. But with free trade agreements, you eliminate those too. All that’s left to do is to pray.
FZ- In this multipolar world that you talk about, what is the relationship with the European Union?
RC: What is obvious is that the future of the world will be a world of blocs. Let’s be realistic, we think that everyone has the same right to vote. The United States includes 50 countries, 50 states, with each of these states being larger and richer, with more production than any Latin American country. I don’t think either that it is reasonable to accord it the same level of voting rights as a Caribbean island of 60,000 inhabitants. I therefore believe that the world of tomorrow will be a world of blocs and that in order to communicate between blocs, we need CELAC. I think there should be a community of Latin American states and a community of Caribbean states, especially an Anglo-Saxon one. We are a different reality, but we are larger blocks and we need to talk between blocks to deal with conflicts, to strengthen coincidences. Europe is a block that has, unfortunately, in the recent past become totally aligned with the United States. Europe was once the continent of the Enlightenment. Today, it is more liberal than the United States and is only following the path of the latter.