Friday, 20 May 2011

Opinion: Ecuador's slide to non-institutional government

Amidst the discomfiture of accusations levelled at him by the IISS regarding his links with Colombia’s FARC, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa today has something to smile about.  Going with the BBC’s coverage, details have emerged of Correa’s victory in the May 7th referendum on political reforms, most significantly, giving him greater control over the media and the judiciary.
Writing in the Latin American Herald Tribune some two weeks ago, Lindsay Green Barber took a positive spin on the impending referendum, stating that regardless of the outcome, “the quantity, quality, and creativity of the discourse of the intense campaigns for ¨si¨ and ¨no¨ are evidence of an actively involved and concerned citizenry” and as such, should be viewed favourably.  What is more, she pointed to the encouraging direction of opposition to Correa’s power-maximising bid, from both left and right of the political spectrum.
But despite her best efforts, Correa’s victory has to come as a kick to the teeth.  She may, of course, be right that Correa’s popularity is on the wane ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 2013.  Indigenous groups, for example, have begun to turn their back on the president following a series of clashes over issues such as mining, water and the administration of justice.
But who’s to say the slide to a non-institutional model of governance will stop here?  If we take a hop, skip, and a rather large jump across Colombia and into Venezuela, for example, we find ourselves with a neat working example of how the incremental suffocation of democratic practice through media restrictions, constitutional reform and harassment of the opposition (amongst other initiatives) is actually a rather effective -- though non-commendable -- way of consolidating ones power.
It seems a full collapse of the indigenism that provided the backbone for Correa’s ascent in the first place will be the best means of preventing a slide to neo-statism and non-institutional governance of the brand witnessed in Venezuela today.

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