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The Referendum

The Referendum

Former president Correa is barred from running from re-election after the recent referendum. There were also big victories to discourage mining and oil drilling in indigenous areas.

This from the Washington Post:

When Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s combative socialist president, decided not to run in his country’s 2017 presidential election, the move was widely interpreted as a tactical retreat.

The strategy, commentators agreed, was to let his protege, Lenín Moreno, keep his seat warm for a single term — and take the blame for the country’s stalling economy — while Correa’s approval ratings recovered ahead of a triumphant return in the 2021 election.

But if that was the plan, it has backfired spectacularly.

Ecuadorans voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to approve constitutional changes that bar Correa from ever becoming president again — and bury significant chunks of his legacy.

According to preliminary results, with 89 percent of ballots counted, 64.3 percent of voters backed a proposal to limit public officials to a single reelection, leaving Correa unable to run again.

The vote also included some other important priorities for environmentalists:

The referendum also included proposals to reverse two flagship Correa policies that had long infuriated Ecuador’s powerful indigenous movement. One proposal, to roll back mining in urban and protected areas, was approved with 68.9 percent of the vote. Another, to curb oil drilling in the stunningly biodiverse Yasuni National Park, home to some of the last indigenous people living in isolation anywhere in the Amazon, received 67.6 percent.

Ancient Pyramids just north of Quito

Ancient Pyramids just north of Quito

Have you heard of Cochasqui? I hadn’t.  This piece from Ancient Origins talks about a site not too far north of Quito:

The archaeological sites in Ecuador are often overshadowed by more popular locations in neighboring Colombia and Peru. However, archaeology enthusiasts have a wealth of options including more than just well-known Ingapirca to admire. Take for example the huge, 83.9-hectare site of Cochasqui, where pyramids and sacred animals patiently remind us that Ecuadorian archaeology holds more secrets than most people recognize. The debate is on: was Cochasquí a home for Quitu Cara elite, an astronomical observatory, a fortress, a sanctuary, or did it serve some combination of functions?

The pyramids were created with cangagua (a volcanic rock-like material). Scholar say the 160kg (352.74 lbs.) cut blocks of rock were softened with water and then cut using harder volcanic rock tools (the site was inhabited before the Iron Age).

Implications of the Referendum

Implications of the Referendum

Ecuador held a historic referendum which denied former President Correa a chance to run for the presidency again. The Washington Post argues that Ecuador is bucking an authoritarian trend in the region and around the world:

RAFAEL CORREA, like Vladi­mir Putin, Hugo Chávez and other authoritarian rulers, found himself stymied by term limits. So in 2015, the Ecuadoran president persuaded his legislature to lift a ceiling of two presidential terms by promising not to run in 2017. His idea was to install a follower for four years and then return to power, as Mr. Putin once did. Then, on Sunday, came a much-deserved comeuppance: Ecuadoran voters, prompted by Mr. Correa’s own successor, voted overwhelmingly to restore a two-term presidential limit, thus blocking the planned second act. It was a victory for democracy not just in Ecuador but also in a region where numerous rulers have sought to entrench themselves in power.

In other parts of the continent, leaders aren’t standing aside:

Voters elsewhere in Latin America appear eager to push long-serving leaders out of power; the problem is that the caudillos aren’t listening. Bolivian President Evo Morales lost a referendum to remove his term limit, but then induced the supreme court he appointed to void it. Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Honduras’s Juan Orlando Hernández similarly manipulated their courts. After extracting permission to run for reelection, Mr. Hernández most likely stole Honduras’s election last November.

Observers generally are pleased with the new president Ecuador and think the referendum was a positive break between the new president Lenin Morena and his predecessor Correa, who came from the same political party.

Referendum restricts oil drilling in Yasuni

Referendum restricts oil drilling in Yasuni

Since our last newsletter, Ecuador held a historic referendum which limited the ability of former president Correa to return as president, but it also entailed restrictions on oil drilling in Yasuni Nationa Park. Lots of discussion about what this might mean in practice.

From Mongabay: 

  • In a recent referendum, 67.5 percent of Ecuador’s voting population voted in favor increasing Yasuní National Park’s Intangible Zone by at least 50,000 hectares and reducing the oil extraction area in the park from 1,030 to 300 hectares.
  • Ishpingo Field, which forms part of Block 43 of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) Initiative, is the only field that has not yet been exploited. Drilling was slated to begin there in mid-2018, but the referendum’s “yes” vote may prevent exploitation.
  • Ishpingo is located on Yasuni’s Intangible Zone, which protects Indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation. Environmentalists hope that a technical commission will be formed to define where the Intangible Zone will expand.

 

Ecuador in the Movies? But a Bad One.

Ecuador in the Movies? But a Bad One.

I was getting my tires changed and saw this terrible Amy Schumer/Goldie Hawn movie Snatched wason. They go to Ecuador! Ecuador! BUT, Ecuador is treated as cliched developing country punching bag in this unfunny comedy. Oh well. What’s the best movie that features Ecuador?

Have you found Ecuadorian friends on Facebook?

Have you found Ecuadorian friends on Facebook?

When I went and visited Ecuador last summer for the first time in almost 20 years, I found that many people are on social media. If not the parents I knew when I served, their kids are, and they are all grown up. If you haven’t tried to find Ecuadorian friends on Facebook, search for their names! By one account, nearly 60% of the population in Ecuador, nearly 10 million Ecuadorians, are on Facebook!

Once you friend a few, others will likely friend you! I feel like I have a better appreciation for what people are doing than I ever did. Soccer games, weddings, birth announcements, trips on horseback to the Paramo, dances, funerals, vacations, hospitalization, I’ve seen it all.

Ecuador Vice President jailed

Ecuador Vice President jailed

News reports said Ecuador’s vice president Jorge Glas was jailed on corruption charges in October and convicted in December:

Ecuador’s Vice President Jorge Glas was jailed on Monday after the Supreme Court ordered his arrest while he is investigated for allegedly taking bribes from a Brazilian construction giant involved in a sprawling regional graft scandal.

Apparently, evidence has been recently submitted against him.

Ecuador’s Inspection Commission has convened with assemblyman Roberto Gomez Alcivar, the trial judge presenting evidence in the impeachment hearings against suspended Vice-President Jorge Glas.

Ecuador’s president says Glas is no longer vice president, despite it being an elected position. Read More »

Reventador Erupts

Reventador Erupts

Last summer, I went to Ecuador and spent some time out in the Oriente near Vulcan Reventador which was rumbling at the time. In December, Reventador spewed lava! (video below). Read More »

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 7

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 7

I was also able to visit other counterparts during my recent stay in Ecuador. I dropped in on Nelson Torres. Torres learned the craft of raising pigs with some help from Peace Corps volunteers and then became a source of information for multiple generations of volunteers thereafter, including me. I learned everything I know about pigs from Nelson.

It was tremendous to see how his business had grown and hear of his big plans for the future.

I also was able to get some fantastic photos of his family.

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…Part 6

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…Part 6

One of the other joys of the trip was catching up with work partners from counterpart organizations. Those include Alberto Tamayo who continues to work with the Fundacion Pastaza.

At the time, they worked in reforestation and sustainable agriculture in the highlands around Ambato, largely to protect the hydroelectric dams. They now work on paramo conservation for water quality protection in the same region, with work with agriculture communities to protect drinking water and irrigation sources.

Alberto lives in Patate and his family runs a restaurant and hotel called La Casta. The back road to Patate from Pillaro is now paved and you can get there in 30 minutes in what would have been a multi-year trip.

I got some great photos of the family and Patate.

It was great to be able to catch up with them and to hear about their work and how the family is trying make their ecotourism venture work.