Ecuador’s president loses political ground in local elections
By Sofia Jarrin
QUITO – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa´s party, Alianza País, lost mayoral elections over the weekend in the country’s three largest cities. The party also lost delegate positions in several key regions where large mining and oil projects have been planned. “We’ve had an important setback in the capital and we will have to review that,” said Correa during a press conference, “but we will continue to build a new nation for this citizen’s revolution.”
Many regarded this election as a measurement of the president’s popularity. After winning a third term in 2013, Correa has been losing credibility among the left because of his conservative views on reproductive and LGBTI rights, an extractivist agenda, and a new Penal Code that human rights groups say criminalizes the right to protest.
On August 15th, he announced the decision to abandon the “Yasuni ITT-initiative” which would have left hundreds of millions of barrels of oil underground in the Yasuni National Park. The announcement stunned many supporters of the popular initiative, regarded as an innovative model for protecting a bio-diverse area. According to the government, drilling operations will only affect 1% of the park.
Correa then battled members of his own party in Congress over reproductive rights, threatening to resign if a group of congresswomen moved forward with reforms that would have decriminalized abortions in the case of rape. The congresswomen backed down under pressure. Correa asked they be punished for showing disloyalty to the party. The legislators were put on a month’s leave without pay.
In early January, Correa gave a speech condemning “absurd and very dangerous gender ideology”, distancing his administration from Ecuador’s LGBTI groups. “We don´t share that kind of barbarism with this people,” he said. Ecuador has seen recent suport for legalizing same-sex marriages.
Correa’s shift away from the progressive ideals he was elected for has prompted many Ecuadorians to question their support for him. “He doesn’t have the right to get into our lives,” a middle-age woman said openly on a bus in Quito the day before the election, “we can do whatever we want with our bodies, love whomever we want. That is our decision.” Several fellow passengers nodded in approval. For many people, this election was their way of saying, “Mr. President, this is our revolution.”