This year has been extremely complex for the South American nation. Social protests, allegations of political judicialisation, economic problems and the pandemic have all taken their toll on Ecuador’s 17 million citizens.
The national political landscape has been tense since January, with allegations of political persecution and diverse sectors of the population calling on the executive to implement public policies that benefit the people, especially those on a low income.
Claims of political persecution, or lawfare, over the last 12 months have been characterised by court cases against leaders of the Citizen Revolution Movement, led by former president Rafael Correa; the threat of imprisonment for members of the assembly; and repeated attempts to prevent this progressive force from participating in next year’s elections. The most contested and criticised processes of political judicialisation include cases brought against former leaders for bribery and rebellion during the “decade of triumph”, as Correa’s ten-year presidency is known, prior to dignitary Lenín Moreno’s current administration.
Being a pre-election year, many people inside and outside the country considered that both these cases were seeking to discredit leaders of Citizen Revolution and to stop the former president participating in the elections planned for 7 February 2021.
Since the beginning of January, Correa, 20 of his former government officials and businessmen have been brought to trial for allegedly receiving funds from contractors to finance campaign activities for the PAIS Alliance candidate between 2012 and 2016, while in office, a crime that they deny.
Nevertheless, they were sentenced to prison in September, amidst irregularities and unsubstantiated claims, which led many to suspect political persecution and plotting.
These cases, together with various popular demonstrations throughout the year against budget cuts, mass redundancies and agreements signed with the International Monetary Fund, have demonstrated the level of generalised discontent with the authorities’ decisions.
Teachers, university students, workers, civil servants and women are just some of the groups who took to the streets to demand transparency from the judicial bodies, attention to the requests of the most impoverished and favourable measures for the majority.
Since the beginning of March, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the national situation, forcing the government to declare a national emergency, alongside restrictions such as isolation and the end of on-site working.
Although the number of infections has dropped very little, the nation is continuing its transition towards the so-called new normal, with a view to boosting economic recovery.
While cases of infections were rising, a network of corruption was uncovered, involving the procurement of medical supplies, equipment and other goods needed to tackle the coronavirus.
This led to the resignation of several civil servants and the dismissal of others, as well as investigative processes to find those responsible and impose the appropriate sanctions.
The advance of the disease, the measures restricting mobility and the isolation imposed to stem it have caused major economic contraction and damaged Ecuadorian families’ finances, exacerbated by the executive’s measures, which are considered unpopular.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, unemployment to September stood at 6.6 per cent of the economically active population, while the rate of multidimensional poverty to December was 38.1 per cent.
Political trials, ministerial resignations, accusations against senior officials and allegations against the president of the republic, Lenín Moreno, were also recurrent this year.
In the midst of this situation, the National Electoral Council called a general election and embarked on a schedule that has been marked with problems and delays, drawing harsh criticism.
Candidate registration was characterized by several attempts to prevent the Citizen Revolution from participating in the 2021 elections; however, each obstacle put forward has been frustrated by the party’s legal responses and the show of support from different sectors of society. (PL)