After Hugo Chavez, who is coming next?
Elections in Ecuador and Bolivia Hugo Chavez has won the election in Venezuela for a third mandate (2013- 2019). The media and international organisations have recognised the triumph of Chavez (54,42%), but it cannot be denied that it has also been a victory for the opposition leaders. Henrique Capriles (who obtained 44,55%) has shown the possibility of constructing a united opposition against a mediatise Chavez. In that sense, the construction of democracy now depends not only on Chavez, with his “XXI socialism” discourse, but also on opposition leaders to capitalise the vote and produce concrete proposals that can be identified by the population. A simple “No Chavez” is not going to work. But are the effects of a contesting opposition, creating spill over into other Latin American countries? Two forthcoming elections in Ecuador and Bolivia is an example of how the power Chavez still latent (but less significant) over the region. Ecuador: From instability to durability? Rafael Correa has announced that he will run for a third period for President in Ecuador. Can this guarantee that Ecuador will become more stable as a country? This is probably the most difficult answer that Correa and his political party “Alianza Pais” will attempt to ask. Since mid 90’s Ecuador has suffered from weak political institutions, starting with the president. This instability has triggered revolts and eroded the remains of Ecuador’s political and economic system. With the entrance of Rafael Correa in 2007, the political image of the president has been partially restored. How strong is Correa against its advisors? During the period 2009 – 2012, Correa, on the domestic level, has the back up of the parliament. This has allowed him to produce economic reforms with a left wing orientation. On the international level, Hugo Chavez was one influential supporter of all actions done by Correa Even there with a considerable number of political parties in Ecuador. Each of them has a specific agenda that made it easy for Correa to show a coherent political discourse. In that sense for the coming elections, political opposition is expected to produce agreements with the consequence of losing the trust of the public. On that idea, if the opposition wants to remain on the political scenery, they must renew their political leaders in order produce a coherent discourse that can challenge Correa’s mandate (much similar to the strategy done in Venezuela by Capriles). The main objective should be to obtain majority in the Parliament (although Correa has threatened to dissolve the Congress in various occasions).
On the economic sphere, Correa has focussed on the exploitation of natural resources, which has given him, in the short term, financial budget to invest in infrastructure (with a social profile). Still, an economy heavily dependent on natural resources can be dangerous in the long term; an economy that is not diversified does not produce jobs. Correa’s government has provided Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) political asylum and prevent his extradition to the United States. Correa has seized the opportunity to highlight his international image as the new political figure that can contest the US on the international dimension. With election to be held on March of 2013, Correa’s possibility of being re-elected for a third mandate looking likely. Unless the opposition put forward important and dramatic changes, nothing else could be expected. However the question remains, will this third period bring the peace and stability to Ecuador and construct solid political and economic institutions. Bolivia: Does Evo needs the back up of Hugo Chavez? Although Evo Morales, has been reluctant to express his intention to another re-election, his party “Movimiento al Socialismo” (MAS) and other close political sectors (coca leaf producers) have announced him as a candidate for the Presidential Election of 2014. Political opposition has declared that this re-election would go against the constitutional mandate. Bolivia has suffered from political and economic instability since 90’s decade. Evo Morales has been one of the few presidents to complete two complete mandates. Indeed this has been a democratic triumph in a country that always has suffered from the lack of it. The socialism promoted by Evo Morales has been focussed on returning the “social” property of land to the peasants, whose economic conditions have always been difficult. In that sense, Morales has battled with mining and gas corporations with the objective of redistributing that land towards agricultural purposes. Although these policies have shown success during his first political term, in his second term new problems have arisen. Several strikes are occurring in the country. This unsatisfied environment is coming in from many social sectors: police, health, transport and landowners. As a result 59% of the population is not in favour of a third period. The government has shown inefficiency in trying to solve these problems. So Morales cannot offer continuity of his political program, due to the
instability in Bolivia. What else can he offer? A new scheme in place to welcome private investment could potentially restore balance in the economic sphere. The need to boost the mineral sector, under new conditions could be a reasonable, risky proposal. In recent years there has been a lack of support from strategic partners like Argentina, Venezuela and Ecuador. Although Bolivia is part of international forums, (the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American States was held in June), no relevant matter highlighted Evo Morales’ position in the international sphere. It seems that the lack of international political back up could hurt Evo Morales in the election, unless Hugo Chavez or other government from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Meanwhile the political opposition has not shown any potential candidate that could contest Morales’ political discourse. Under this scenario a political polarisation cannot be seen yet. Conclusion The forthcoming elections in Ecuador (2013) and Bolivia (2014) present similarities Rafael Correa and Evo Morales, both left wing are seeking a third presidential period. Correa has more chances of winning, than Morales, however both have pending and unresolved agendas: Ecuador with a Social and Public Reforms; and Bolivia with a deficit of foreign capital to boost the economy. Indeed Correa has emerged better in the international arena, however he needs to improve on the internal one; if not he can loose the majority in the congress. Morales needs to work in achieving quicker results in order to reduce the internal conflicts that could drive the population into more instability. The results in the coming elections can show the trend, the Socialist discourse can be showing exhaustion. The victory of Henrique Capriles, creating a political opposition in Venezuela can be the opportunity for the opposition political parties in Ecuador and Bolivia rise with a structured and coherent discourse. Apparently, Chavez is losing some power in the region, while other political actors are capturing that. It seems Chavez is not the only one producing a political spill over.