Student David Pazmino Continues Ecuador Journey

David Pazmino

Latin American history has been marked with unrest, revolution, corruption and more. Since 1999, Latin America has experienced a series of changes in politics and attitudes toward the world in response to the expansion of capitalism and attendant ecological crises. In the last three years, many Latin American countries have chosen leftist governments. In this special report, David Pazmino and the Hispanic Organization for Latin Americans (HOLA) presents a series of interviews from the Republic of Ecuador. In these interviews of government officials conducted and translated by Pazmino, we will hear the situation in Latin America from the best source, its people. This series of interviews is not meant to judge what is good or bad, but only to inform.

DP: Why are Ecuadorians angry at the international policy of the United States?

Dr. Jaime Durango Flores, ex-Vice Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Stockbreeding, Aquaculture, and Fishing: There has been a lack of interest in Latin America and Ecuador in the foreign policy of the United States. The political policy of the president of the United States has been only interested in defending the interests of corporations. The result of those policies is the present situation that we see. In the case of Plan Colombia, the United States gives Colombia $400 million of aid each year. In Ecuador, the free trade agreement with the United States isn’t beneficial to Ecuador, because we need to increase and develop our agriculture before we sign any free trade agreement. If we sign it right now it will just benefit the banking system.

DP: How has Chavez affected Latin America; how is Ecuador involved?

JDF: I think that, more than actions, is the question of speculation of certain sectors of the country which naturally affect the international press, which in turn affect the outside view of Ecuador and the relationships between Ecuador and Venezuela. The government elected is an answer to what people want. They want a change in their life and in their economic situation. The economy has been very affected in the last 15 years by the laws, economic and political, passed in the country. In practice, this has meant that the social and economic indicators have decreased. The result has been that 3 million people have emigrated to other countries, especially from the agricultural communities. The hope is to find a solution for Ecuadorians to come back home. We need to find solutions for Ecuador, without copying international models or the Venezuelan model, we need to find what works and does not work in our country. We agree with past governments in that we need to find a change for our country and a way to unite other Latin American countries. The government of President Rafeal Correa is trying to change the model that privileges that bank system and the commercial system, into a model that benefits our reality. He wants to better the agricultural work in our country in order to improve the base of our country’s economy. We are fundamentally an agricultural nation.

DP: Is the fact that we use the American dollar in Ecuador good or bad?

JDF: The use of the dollar was one response to the economic crisis of 1999. There are many perspectives about a distant economic model that was implanted in our country. Ecuador has lost competitiveness since we don’t have the ability to manage currency in our country. We eventually need to create a regional currency, but in the present it would cause more problems.

DP: Why do some parts of Ecuadorian society want to maintain the American dollar permanently.

JDF: Because the financial and the commercial sector has received most of the benefits, and it is clear that the dollar is a strong currency. However, the problem is that it has negatively affected most of our society. The “dollarization” has created a loss of productivity, which has caused a loss of international markets. Today we have a minimum salary of $200 per month, but the basic cost of living is around $600 per month. So it is clear that most Ecuadorians are living under the poverty line.

DP: Is UNASUR, the union of South America nations, a good or bad idea?

JDF: It’s a great idea because it will unify our similar culture, language, traditions, etc. This is the moment of great unions, as we see in corporations and countries.

DP: What is the role of Ecuador in UNASUR?

JDF: Ecuador has always had a spirit of unity. From the beginning, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama were all one country. At the end, we were the last country to secede. But we’ve always had the idea that we need to get back together as siblings. The beginning was the Andean community, and then came the MERCOSUR and other treaties between nations. The next step is UNASUR.


DP: What are your thoughts about the constituent assembly that seeks to rewrite the national constitution?

JDF: It is a mechanism that is there to respond to the need to change the reality of our country, which has been affected by the same laws and economics that have existed since the return of democracy 15 years ago. It’s fundamental to change the laws of the country in order to have an economic and social change in all the people’s lives.

DP: Is it necessary after so many constitutions?

JDF: Yes, because Ecuador is a country that has changed its needs very rapidly. The laws that were passed in the past do not respond to the need of the present. Inequality that is allowed by the laws of the constitution passed in 1998 affects 80% of the population that lives in poverty, and 13% in extreme poverty. We need to have the mechanisms to change the country.

DP: What do you think about socialism in Ecuador?

JDF: Socialism is an ideology, but this is not the time for ideologies in our country. The government chosen represents democratic socialism, a model that resolves the actual problems of the country without leaving any Ecuadorian behind.

DP: Why are so many people afraid of “the Chavez effect” in Latin America?

JDF: The question that I have for you is: what’s wrong with the government of Chavez? A president can’t be governing a country for so long a time if the people don’t support him. Ecuador has an Ecuadorian plan for the development of Ecuador. We do not need the influence or the help of any other country.

DP: What do you think about global warming? What can Ecuador do to overcome its effects?

JDF: Global warming affects us all, and we are conscious of this. In Ecuador we will do what is possible, in our capacity, to overcome the threats of global warming. But every country needs the help of every other country to be successful.

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