Exclusive interview with Andrés Arauz, presidential candidate of Ecuador
“In Ecuador, 80% of the population reduced their income to half or less. It is extremely painful for families not to be certain if they will be able to buy food for their children every night”
Andrés Arauz, candidate for the presidency of Ecuador for the electoral alliance ‘Unión por la Esperanza — Listas 1’, believes that the Ecuadorians are seeing with great enthusiasm the political option that they propose to the country because they are being totally sincere, “regards of our intention to serve honestly to Ecuador”.
In an interview in Voces Sin Fronteras (VsF), led by Bruno Sommer and Denis Rogatyuk, he underlined the importance of international observers from this moment on to guarantee that the Lenín Moreno government respects democracy and the right to political participation in the upcoming 2021 elections.
VsF: They have began to call you the “perfect stranger” among the followers of Rafael Correa and also in the media, since you are not as famous as other leaders of the Citizen Revolution. Does this bother you?
AA: On the contrary, I am proud of the life that I have had of public service without any personal aspiration beyond serving my country and this time, of being able to have jumped into the public arena. I think that the iruption on to the electoral scene in Ecuador has confirmed some ideas of what the Ecuadorian people were looking for, which was a renewal of politics, youth of ideas, creative and innovative thinking and, from the perspective beyond my profile or not, the solvency in the economic knowledge which is the main concern of Ecuadorian families today. So we are very happy to be able to represent the Ecuadorian people, it has been a lifetime of service and training that we now want to put at the service of the Ecuadorian families.
Sumak kawsay or the concept of ‘Good Living’ was the main political project of the Correa government, but we have seen that many of its aspects have been abandoned by Moreno, especially the central role that the State had in the Ecuadorian economy. Do you see the victory of Unión por la Esperanza as a return to sumak kawsay, to ‘Good Living’?
Of course. We have our main roadmap to the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, the one that was built progressively, in a participatory way, with the support of the overwhelming majority of the Ecuadorian people and ratified in a referendum. We are once again convinced that the Constitution is our main way forward and that is where the paradigm to which we aspire is established, which is ‘Good Living’.
‘Good Living’, so that our audiences around the world can understand it, proposes an alternative paradigm to development, but also complementary to development. The ‘Good Living’ regime proposed in the Constitution of Ecuador establishes human, social, economic and cultural rights, many of which are in international treaties, but it also proposes a relationship of harmony with nature and future generations.
We do want that for Ecuador, we would also like it for the world. We see that it is a progressive approach, which must be raised on a planetary basis and that is what we also want to build for our country: the role of the State in the economy and the Guarantee of law. What we want to do is strengthen the capacities and opportunities of all the Ecuadorians.
Right now we also have a huge challenge in the post-pandemic context, which must be the opportunity for humanity to consider these almost philosophical reflections and say if this system that benefited a few, that excluded many, that was based on the luxury consumption, which did not really give us happiness but was an aspiration built symbolically and by the media really served us all, or should we consider a world in harmony, where we can take care of our life, our health, our knowledge, creativity and from there build a world by all of us and for all (Men and women).
Your profile may seem a bit that of Rafael Correa. The most defining part of Correa’s presidential campaign was the goal of creating the Constituent Assembly and putting an end to neoliberalism and the IMF’s dominance over the country, what are the most defining goals of your campaign?
The economic axis is very important. I believe that in that (Economy) we have a similarity with Rafael Correa, but not only because of the similarity of profiles but because it is the urgency of Ecuadorian families now.
In Ecuador, 80% of the population reduced their income to half or less. It is extremely painful for families not to be certain if they will be able to buy food for their children every night. It is extremely hard that in the middle of the pandemic there has not been financial support to solve their immediate situation, their urgent needs and this is reflected in the preference for an economist, for a person who understands economics, employment, work, and who finally wants to recover the dignity of Ecuadorian families.
So we are working on it. We are happy to be able to serve the Ecuadorian people in that dimension. We know how to do it, we have done it in the past and now we are going to do it faster. So I think that is what the Ecuadorian society has seen and that is why it is reflected in the overwhelming support in the intention to vote, in the electoral support, but also in the presence in the streets so that democratic conditions are guaranteed in the Ecuador that will allow to recover hope, the future, in the hands of Ecuadorian progressives.
We understand that Ecuador has a unique situation, very particular in Latin America, having the US dollar as its main currency and, therefore, practically no control over monetary policy. Based on this experience, how would you handle the country’s monetary policy in the current socioeconomic conditions it is going through?
In the case of Ecuador, dollarization already has the stage set for us in terms of economic and monetary policy, and that means that unlike other countries that can simply ‘issue’ their currency, we have to manage what we already have. That gives us a framework of redistributive decisions on the one hand, where with what we have, we have to move forward and that means that there has to be solidarity within our society, where the largest contributes so that the smallest can get ahead in order to save their life. So, a redistributive policy in the monetary dimension is also important.
We have to reorient the liquidity surpluses, which do exist in the Ecuadorian economy but which unfortunately an amount of 30 billion, that is 10 times the official reserve, are deposited abroad by a handful of economic groups and that has to serve as a monetary mass to reinvigorate the economic activity in our country.
We know the type of policies, incentives and controls that we have to implement, they have to do with information technologies. We know that we need to boost what is technically called the speed of money circulation. For example, if I owe you 10 dollars but you live in another city, we have to meet, which possibly implies that I travel two hours to find you and give you the 10 dollar bill, but if we use electronic money, issued by the Central Bank, it is as simple as making a transaction that will last five seconds and you already have those 10 dollars. That means that you can also make a transfer of those 10 dollars to someone else and so on several times during the same period of time and in those two hours, that I would have spent in making one transaction, hundreds of transactions can occur and the economy becomes more dynamic.
That is the type of innovative policies, which understand well the monetary management, the relationship with technology, with the internet, and how we can promote electronic commerce, the recycling of currencies, productive investment, the credit facilitated for Ecuadorians, all of this is what we understand as monetary policy in dollarization.
We know how to carry out monetary policy in dollarization and that does not go around speeches but with dollars. More dollars have to come in than go out and we have to use innovative methods so that the economy can use those same dollars in a much more dynamic way.
As president of Ecuador, how would you allocate the funds obtained through special drawing rights and other regional and international financial organizations so that Ecuador’s economy can once again emerge from the comatose stage it is in?
Special drawing rights are an instrument that are very important to help developing countries. Perhaps it is important to mention what is happening worldwide, we have a few countries, five countries around the world, that can print an infinite amount of money to meet their emergency needs in this crisis, but in the case of developing countries, poor countries, these do not have that possibility because that would cause their currencies to collapse.
So what we have to propose as a group of developing countries worldwide is that the IMF in a special department that it has, which is almost secret, called the Department of Special Drawing Rights, can distribute without indebtedness. money for poor, developing countries to meet their economic needs derived from the pandemic.
Incredibly, there we have a coincidence with the IMF, with the director of the organization, where we have agreed on that point. I met with the IMF a few weeks ago and we have discussed this issue and they have said ‘thank you for the support, but we still have a gap to overcome, which is the United States’ criterion’, which as we know has veto power in the IMF assembly, so we are doing the management in the United States, with our progressive allies but also with ecclesiastical communities, non-governmental organizations, to convince the Government of the United States that it is the best way to help poor countries around the world.
Our relationship with the United States, with the IMF, with international organizations, will not be one of confrontation. We do not believe in confrontation, but we do believe in dignity, absolute sovereignty and in the approaches where it would benefit us, such as the special drawing rights, in that case, full support.
We are members of these international organizations, and we are going to exercise our position, our vote, our strength together with our Latin American allies and those around the world to reorient the nefarious policy that has basically gone to privilege death and the interests of a few bankers over the privilege of life and the development of the peoples.
What has been your particular experience of political persecution in Ecuador?
We have experienced political persecution not as directly as my colleagues who have basically had to go into exile in Mexico, in Europe, in other sister countries of Latin America, as it had never happened before in Ecuador in these dimensions. We can count dozens of exiles from Ecuador. International human rights organizations and other sister countries have recognized the terrible harassment that has occurred against our colleagues.
I did not live through this process because I was in Mexico studying, but undoubtedly there I was able to interact, receive, bond with my fellow exiles, so that has also been very painful for me, for my family, to have suffered those consequences. But now we are focused on providing a solution to the Ecuadorian people, which will also obviously imply the peaceful reestablishment of democratic institutions in Ecuador, putting a brake on political persecution because we are not motivated by hatred, or revenge, nor trapping anybody or the fight between politicians, but rather we are motivated by love for the motherland, finding solutions and putting this knowledge, this training, at the service of Ecuadorian families, of our Ecuadorian State that must be strengthened as it provides solutions to the people of my country.
In my case, fortunately, I believe from the initial point that we were talking about, that because I did not have such a high profile, I have not been a victim of persecution in the past, but they did not manage to wait five minutes since I returned to Ecuador and was incorporated on the electoral stage that they began to persecute my family. They have wanted to attack my family, they have wanted to link them to me simply because of my political relationship and obviously trying to harm in that direction.
We are living a de facto regime that prioritizes persecution, dedicating a lot of energy to the persecution instead of providing solutions for the Ecuadorian people.
In your opinion, what should international human rights groups and progressive political organizations around the world do to end political persecution in Ecuador and support free and fair elections in 2021?
We have made an invitation to international organizations and to the United Nations. In fact they have accepted my invitation and I have scheduled a meeting with the delegates of the United Nations Secretary General to address our concerns regarding the electoral process in Ecuador, the threats to democracy that we are seeing in our country. We have also invited the European Union to actively participate in the electoral observation, not on February 7 on election day, but now, because we need urgent oversight and vigilance on this issue.
We have received the support of former presidents of Latin America, overwhelming support, very strong in their pronouncements, and we thank them very much for this enormous demonstration of solidarity and concern regarding Ecuadorian democracy and we are obviously making the internal arrangements.
Now there is a threat against our political party, Compromiso Social, fortunately our leaders, our colleagues, had the clairvoyance that this could happen and they had a Plan b. We had a Plan b that has allowed us to participate with another movement, Centro Democrático, that opened the doors for us, the ‘lists one’ in Ecuador. We now present progressivism through ‘lists one’ and this allows us to participate electorally.
That is very important, we are eternally grateful for that openness that we have received, but also now there is the threat on the participation of our binomial. Although in the legal field we are extremely calm, because the laws and regulations absolutely support us in the procedure, if any risk of premeditated actions or pressure from economic groups and factual powers seek to exclude us from electoral participation. I think that would be playing with fire. I don’t think they dare to go in that direction because the Ecuadorian people are vigilant about that fact.
They have already taken our political party away from us, they have already removed Rafael Correa from the ballot, it would be the last straw if they do not allow us to participate because we are leading all the polls and it would be a sample of undemocratic direct action if they prevent us from participating.
What are the three main reasons why Andrés Arauz is qualified to be the future president of Ecuador?
Despite the young age that is reflected in the youth of ideas, creative thinking, innovative proposals that we have made to the country, for example, we have proposed this week to the National Electoral Council the democratization and digitization of the campaign contributions, so that people can make contributions of 1, 5, 10 dollars, and in this way the electoral campaign is more of the people but, in addition, that all contributions and all expenses made in the campaign should be published with open data so that we can see who is really representing the public and who is representing a bank, for example.
That is what Ecuadorians are seeing with great enthusiasm, because we are being totally sincere with the country regarding our intention to serve Ecuador honestly. I also believe that we feel qualified to lead the country in the midst of these challenges because we have never stopped generating proposals. When the pandemic began, many people criticized the government, in a space that I directed called the Dollarization Observatory, and in that space we put forward proposals almost every day to solve the lives of people, of families and I think that is what we are most proud to offer to the country. Proposals, proposals, proposals indefinitely, always with a capacity to generate proposals for alternatives to provide solutions to Ecuadorians.
Fifteen years of public service and academic training that we now want to put at the service of Ecuadorians. That is why I feel qualified to assume the reins of our country even in this challenging context so complex.
In reaching the presidency, what would be the first action you would propose to create employment and for workers to regain their rights?
We are accompanying the actions of unconstitutionality of the Humanitarian Support Law and the Public Finance Law, which meant a brutal regression of workers’ rights in Ecuador. We are hoping that, even before we come to our government, the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court will rule and declare them unconstitutional. The rights of workers, including their remuneration, have to return to the initial state. We are very vigilant of what the Constitutional Court can do and we are sure that despite its spurious, illegitimate origin, which meant in the Constitutional Court with a constitutional vacancy where all the judges were removed, we hope it rises to the occasion and does not dare to so grossly harm the rights of Ecuadorian workers.
Migrants closely follow the repressive acts of the Police during the demonstrations in October and in recent months, what are the policies that you are going to undertake during your government so that such acts are not repeated?
I would like to answer it in ‘two speeds’, the first one has to do with pursuing the truth of what occurred in October almost a year ago. We are going to constitute a truth commission, but it will not intercede or interfere in the competences of the Ombudsman’s Office, which is the Human Rights body of Ecuador, nor in those of the Prosecutor’s Office, which is the one that accuses according to the Penal Code. We are going to create a truth commission focused on the actions of the Executive itself, that is, what did the Government do to carry out such a repressive policy? What was the line of command behind the repression orders? How many additional deaths were there in our health system that were unfortunately hidden under those conditions? We want to understand what were the tensions that existed between the military and police commanders. What was the foreign interference in that process and how it was related to the IMF and the dimensions of the economic measures that led us to that point.
I believe that a truth commission that can make this transparent to the public, that can respond with the truth, especially for those who lost loved ones or even lost parts of their body with policies that seemed to be deliberately, intentional, to affect certain parts of the bodies of Ecuadorians, including the eyes, has to be examined.
All these things have to be studied and only there, with the truth, can we build reconciliation, we can overcome that hatred, that polarization and rededicate ourselves to finding solutions for our country.
We are not motivated by hatred, we are motivated by love of the country, but here we are talking about a situation that caused death, pain, to many people, which caused exiles and arrests. More than a thousand people arbitrarily detained. Ecuador must know the truth, especially in relation to executive function.
And the ‘second speed’ with which I want to answer this question is that with us, there will never be this type of repression because we are ruling together with the Ecuadorian people. We are going to govern together with the Ecuadorian people, together with a popular power that is born from the bottom up. It is not a question of one person, this has to be done by all the Ecuadorian people and, fortunately, we have the enormous, majority, the overwhelming support of the Ecuadorian people to go in that direction and we are going to do it together with the people.
Repression is not our thing. We prefer to make a mistake in an economic decision but not to kill our compatriots, that will never happen with us.
Ping pong session — Quick responses
What is your favorite soccer club?
I am a fan of the El Nacional sports club.
What is your favorite Ecuadorian food?
My favorite dish is the jipijapa ceviche, which is a fish ceviche but also has peanuts and a little avocado, it is a bomb but it is the most delicious bomb in Ecuador.
What is your favorite music group or singer?
I love Residente very much, for me it is the type of music that I love not only because of the rhythms and the music but because of the message it sends to the youth and the world. But from there we also have tastes for Ecuadorian music, our affection for Latin American music and we hope that we will also have a renewal in the messages, in the content of music in general. In such difficult moments, it is so important to be able to count on the artists to also give us insight as to the direction in which we should advance.
How important is family to you?
Family is supremely important, they are my love, my life. We are a very united family, very strengthened, and now we are assuming this challenge together, it is a common challenge for all, but my family also has a conviction to service and now also our warmth, our love, we are going to put it at the service of Ecuador.
What animal do you identify with?
I specifically love the marine iguana of the Galapagos Islands, because it is very versatile, it can be on land, it can be in the sea, it is a unique species that can also swim and is different from many others.
How important are the native peoples of Ecuador for you?
They are of absolute importance. We are fully convinced of the need to actually build a plurinational and intercultural State, not only in what our Constitution already orders, but in making it a reality and that implies having transversal policies in the media, in the educational system, in the justice system, in the preservation of our ancestral languages.
By the way, we are going to declare in emergency our ancestral languages that are in risk of extinction.The peoples and nationalities of Ecuador have ancestral languages that if we do not manage to institutionalize them, document them, generate dictionaries, generate all the scaffolding and the construction of public policy can get lost and with a language you lose a worldview, a way of understanding and seeing the world. So we are going to work a lot in the construction of that plurinational and intercultural State and that is done hand in hand, together with the peoples and nationalities of Ecuador.
What does the word loyalty mean to you?
Loyalty is a value that all human beings learn from an early age. We are loyal to the family because it is our framework, as humanity, of stability and survival and the beauty is that for us, we are loyal to the Ecuadorian people.
What does the name Lenín Moreno mean to you?
Moreno is a betrayal, it is pain, I really feel sorry for the man and I would not like to talk about him any more.
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