He is one of the closest men to Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, and he has an in-depth knowledge of what is going on there. Talking to The Prisma, he spoke of his vision of the new Ecuador,, one of the continent’s new democracies.
“It is like a dream come true, what we are experiencing, having so many governments, so many nations who are moving in the same direction”. That is what the economist Fander Falconí has to say about the continent’s democracies and the common union project that they share with Ecuador.
One of the main players in the major social and economic changes that have come about in the Latin American nation, Falconí has been part of the current Ecuadorian political project since the beginning, including a period spent as Foreign Minister from 2008 to 2010.
Although he is currently studying for a post doctorate at The Hague University and is involved in other academic activities, Falconí keeps in touch with his people, who are witnessing a social revolution in their country.
Proof of this goes beyond Ecuador´s borders in the form of his trip to London last week as a guest of the Ecuadorian Consulate where he gave a talk about the recent economic, political and social changes in Ecuador. Taking advantage of this opportunity, The Prisma spoke to Fander Falconí about several issues. Always good-humoured and willing to share his experiences, he answered our questions.
What has the government of Ecuador achieved so far in social and economic terms?
There are some very specific achievements in terms of the state´s capacity for distribution, redistribution, planning and deconcentration. This can be seen in actual changes in public policy and particularly in social investment which has quadrupled in the years of the current government.
If we work from the basis that the main problem in Latin American society is inequality, then providing more resources is a fundamental vehicle in terms of health, education, science, technology and productive recovery. Public policy has focused on these areas.
Over the last four years, Ecuador has seen democratic stability; its institutions are functioning normally and have gained credibility in the eyes of its citizens.
An important landmark was reached in 2008 with the approval of a new constitution which established a new pact of coexistence.
Around 35 laws have been passed by the National Assembly, laws that relate to the key structure of the state apparatus. We are talking about competition laws, laws that aim to create quality higher education or others for a process of de-concentration of state powers.
The process brings with it some major challenges, some which have been raised by the President of the Republic. For example, furthering the farming revolution, where the ownership and misdistribution of resources is still to be dealt with. The citizen’s revolution still needs to create the conditions for a productive relaunch. Steps have been taken in this direction, but cultural obstacles from the past still persist. These problems cannot be solved overnight, but must be worked at with determination. Matters such as citizen safety also deserve more attention.
We are in the midst of a process where important steps have been made, but are still in a consolidation phase, and the conditions are magnificent for the desired change to be achieved.
What should we think of the discontent of the indigenous communities over the mining projects and above all the repression of the protests?
It is important to choose and measure one’s words carefully. There is tension, but there has not been any type of repression, there is no reliable evidence that shows that they have been repressed. There has been a totally calculated use of police and military force when protests have arisen, in order to maintain respect for them and to understand that in a democracy it is necessary to understand and process differences. In essence what is being debated here is a development strategy, where there are sectors that legitimately plead for the abandonment of all types of extraction of natural resources and those of us who consider that there should be a gradual transition towards economies that rely less on natural resources and to achieve a society based on services and knowledge. But that is quite different to saying that there has been repression.
Can the government guarantee a definitive solution to these disputes?
These things are not achieved overnight. Tensions arise; this is how it is in Ecuador and in many Latin American countries. We are now witnessing the enormous tension produced in Bolivia by the construction of a motorway that even prompted the president, Evo Morales to speak out. Morales stated that in the future there will be more consultation with communities. This type of reasoning must be taken into account and this is part of what is happening in Latin America.
Firstly, two things need to be put into context. Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia in March 2008 because their military and police forces launched an attack which challenged Ecuador´s sovereignty. After this there was a process of normalisation of diplomatic relations which was completed last year with full normalisation at the level of ambassadors. Ecuador proposed a set of requirements for the normalisation of diplomatic relations; these in the most part have been duly met. Amongst these is the requirement that Ecuador will be compensated for the Angostura attacks. Furthermore and most fundamentally that the truth is made known about whether or not third countries were involved and about improper use of the Manta military base. These matters are now in North American hands.
Does the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries mean that you have put this chapter behind you?
Diplomatic relations have been restored, but this does not mean that all of the problems that caused the ruptures have been resolved. We coexist with a conflict that is outside of our borders, that was not started by Ecuadorians. On the northern border there is a presence of Colombian rebel groups, paramilitaries and violence that affects the government of Ecuador. We are a peaceful country, we do not want armed conflicts with our neighbours and because of this the decision to avoid military intervention in the Colombian conflict has been one of the pillars of Ecuador´s foreign policy.
How do you envisage diplomatic relations with Venezuela if they were to elect a new president with a different way of thinking to Chávez´s government?
As with Colombia, Ecuador respects internal sovereignties of populations that elect their governments, irrespective of their political ideology.
In my opinion, I would like Latin America to make a clear and progressive turn towards the left. I am of the opinion that the presence of the government of president Chávez has been a fundamental factor in the progressive turn in Latin America.
Venezuela was alone at the beginning of the past decade, it was practically the only country that, together with Cuba, had anti-hegemonic policies and that put up resistance against free trade which at that time the North American government wanted to impose.
Since then a group of progressive governments have come together in the region and this is a trend that I hope continues.
In the case of the newspaper ‘El Universo’ there was a court ruling followed by an appeal by the owners of the publication. Don’t you think that taking a media outlet to court could give the outside world an image of Ecuador as a country that controls its media?
The President of the Republic considered that an article written by the journalist Emilio Palacio was damaging to his dignity both as a citizen and as a representative in a public post at that time. He turned to the Ecuadorian justice system which is totally independent. This lawsuit is now being processed. At the moment there is an appeal in the High Court. In Ecuador the law works. In this case, those who have been sued are able to defend themselves, to provide evidence and to ask for a legal examination of what is being judged, both the suit brought by the President of the Republic against Mr Emilio Palacio and the subsequent responsibility for the owners of the newspaper. At the moment it is the judicial system that must make a decision on this matter.
In the right circumstances, would you return to government?
I believe that I serve a country and a political project with which I identify fully, myself being a founding member of it. I have been consistent with the principles of this program of government. The state, and not public service, is supplementary, independent and I am always committed to the political project. Public service, if required, according to specific circumstances is something that I will consider. At the moment I am very happy with my academic activities, I am part of the national committee of the Movimiento País movement and I identify fully with a project of change on an international level.
What prospects do you see for the future of the Latin American region?
I believe that Latin America is currently undergoing a unique and historic opportunity. All of us who have struggled have some responsibility for what is happening. What we are witnessing is like a dream come true; so many governments, so many people moving in the same direction – Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, now Peru and the same with Ecuador and Argentina. It is not that all of the processes are the same, not at all. There are subtle differences between them, but I think that this is a unique opportunity that the region has to coordinate its efforts and its domestic and foreign policies in order to benefit its people.
(Translated by: Zoë Thurston (firstname.lastname@example.org)