- Interview by
- Bhaskar Sunkara
Andrés Arauz doesn’t act like someone on the cusp of state power — in a good way. As I spent time with the likely next president of Ecuador in New York on Tuesday, I was struck by how humble he seemed in his interactions with his staff, activists, and strangers.
The international press would have us believe that Arauz is a dangerous figure, a pawn of the fiery populist Rafael Correa and committed to both polarizing rhetoric and destabilizing policies. Instead, what I found in my discussions was a humble figure, an ideologically committed progressive, but also a nuanced thinker, proud of his technocratic acumen and background as an economist.
By Arauz’s calm demeanor, one wouldn’t suspect the storm brewing around him. Conspiracy theories are growing about his implausible connection with Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN), and propaganda is being spread about what he has planned for Ecuador and who he will answer to. Arauz, who just turned thirty-six years old and was relatively unknown until a few months ago, doesn’t even know who he’ll face in second-round elections in April.
Earlier this month, he won around a third of the vote with a significant lead over his rivals, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a runoff. Pending recount results, April will see either a more straightforward race against a conservative banker in Guillermo Lasso or a complicated one pitting him against Yaku Pérez, an environmental activist who has won the support of some on the liberal left.
None of the three potential presidents of Ecuador, however, are keen to associate themselves with the country’s current leader, Lenín Moreno. After riding the movement around Correa to victory in 2017, he began a right-wing turn, embracing austerity measures and persecuting key leaders of the country’s Citizens’ Revolution.
As a result, prominent figures like Rafael Correa and Jorge Glas were unable to take part in this year’s contest. Indeed, the Citizen Revolution Movement has faced extraordinary measures as it tried to register as a party and put together a ticket. With its existing leadership hounded, an outsider, in Arauz, was the best choice to mount a campaign to undo many of Moreno’s actions and deepen the achievements of the Correa administration (2007–2017).
Despite controversies and criticisms over mining projects and clashes with the organized indigenous movement, under Correa’s popular government Ecuador’s minimum wage doubled, poverty plunged, education and health care spending soared, and GDP growth exceeded regional averages. It’s a period that many in the country would like to go back to.
Today, COVID-19 has taken over fifteen thousand lives, unemployment has soared, the health infrastructure has been battered, and an IMF austerity program threatens to plunge the country into an even deeper recession.
Andrés Arauz was just in his twenties when he served in Correa’s central bank and then later as a minister. In what follows, he explains some of his worldview, how he plans to win the second round and unite his country, and what we can expect from his presidency.
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