March 1, 2018

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.

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President is Trying to Cut Peace Corps Budget

President Trump’s budget proposes cutting Peace Corps. Congress has the power to appropriate and largely disregarded the Trump budget last year, but it takes energy and calls to Congress to remind them to support Peace Corps.

This from NPCA:

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2019 was released today and it proposes a budget of $396 million for the Peace Corps. After already requesting a $12 million cut in fiscal 2018—the deepest from a White House in over 40 years—the 2019 request further reduces Peace Corps’ budget by another $2 million.

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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).

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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.

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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.


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