Balanced View

by | Jan 3, 2008 | Archives

Every day in the publishing business is fun…yet also tinted with some sadness, because there is usually someone with a great deal of ignorance…tinted with anger, who decides to waste their time spewing both. Here is an example. I am forwarding this (unedited) not because it is worthy of comment, but because you may hear such misconceptions elsewhere and it’s important that one sees a balanced view.

“Gary, Actually Colombia is the oldest democracy in Latin American. Ecuador is not even a democracy. Where did you come up with that? Rafael Correa is a leftist and a Chavez stooge. He is not for free markets nor for private property. USA is a much safer place to invest. Surprising that you would even like somebody like that. The Ecuadoreans with any money are moving their money out of the country. Maybe next time you’re in Ecuador , learn some Ecuadorean history. Crime is indeed a serious problem in Ecuador . Guayaquil , Quito and Esmeraldas are not safe places to be. It’s obvious that you’ve never been to the cities. I have. Of all the wonderful places in the world, why do you have such a love affair with Ecuador ? Aside from being ‘cheap’ what else does it have going for it? You just like it because you’re a cheap kind of guy?”

This note is filled with errors so first, let’s look at the history…which in all honesty does not matter all that much since Ecuador and Colombia really emerged from the same roots. Yet the record shows that Ecuador was Ecuador about 36 years before Colombia was officially Colombia .

Ecuador was a Spanish colony, part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until 1740, when it was transferred to the Viceroyalty of New Granada (together with Colombia and Venezuela ). This position lasted until 1822 when after 13 years of revolution the entire (now politically called Ecuador , Colombia and Venezuela ) area became independent and called itself Gran Colombia .

Simon Bolívar was elected first president of Gran Colombia . Ecuador was a part of Gran Colombia but this federation was dissolved in 1830, and Ecuador withdrew. Thus 1830 could be used as the date of independence for Ecuador .

At this 1930 dissolution the country now called Colombia became a new country, the Republic of New Granada .

In 1863 the name of the Republic was changed officially to “United States of Colombia”, and in 1886 the country adopted its present name: ” Republic of Colombia “.

Second, I have been many times over a period of 13 years to Guayaquil , Quito and Esmeraldas and have taken about 2,000 people to these places with no problems. I, however, agree with the reader that Esmeraldas is not a safe place. There are parts of Quito and Guayaquil that are not safe as well. Ditto for New York , London , Paris , Rome , Los Angeles , etc. So I wonder what the point is here? Every city has some places that are not safe.

Our experience from moving thousands of tourists through this country is that it is as safe as any other place.

Next…like in the US , I know many people who live there moving money out of the country and many moving into it.

Finally…Correa? The popular press keep painting him as a leftist populist but his actions have not moved that way at all. See

And am I cheap? A prominent Ecuadorian attorney Matthew Carpenter Arévalo recently sent this note about Ecuador .

“Winston Churchill, the great British statesman, was a man who at times would spend hours arguing with friends and colleagues over the fine details of policy he did not agree with. At other times individuals around him would engage in seemingly endless rants filled with repulsive ideas and he would either listen contently or politely change the subject. Although this may seem like a contradiction, Churchill’s philosophy was that it wasn’t worth arguing with someone if that person’s opinion was not important.”

So we’ll ignore this writer’s comments about my search for value.

However this attorney who is not especially a fan of Correa also had a very balanced view about Ecuador ’s President that is worth the time to read. He continued:

“Lately I have been reflecting a lot upon Churchill as I find myself often put in social situations where anti-Correa/anti-constituent assembly opinions dominate dinner conversation and I am forced to bite my tongue (or, much easier, my food). I refuse to speak up in these situations most often because any form of dissent would surely turn polite

conversation into uncomfortable banter. Although I am far from an uncritical supporter of the President, my approach to Ecuadorian politics is that things are never black and white, and not everyone is motivated by selfish or corrupt inclinations. In other words, as a personal philosophy I attempt to avoid cynicism when hope still exists.

“My problem with the barking sessions I am often forced to abstain from is that a.) they are often based on the assumption that, before Correa, everything in Ecuador was fine b.) Ecuador is slowly becoming Venezuela c.) the country is in open free-fall since the “uneducated poor” fell into the trap of a ruthless lying populist and d.) the conversations very rarely get around to proposing any alternative.

“Even before Correa Ecuador was a politically unstable country with no serious long-term economic growth strategy. Correa based his Presidential campaign on proposing a solution to the first while convincing many he had the cures for the latter. It is too early in his mandate to determine if either will be successful. The constituent assembly was meant to bring an end to ten years of political instability in which 3 consecutive democratically elected

Presidents were overthrown through street protests. Unlike countries like Italy or Israel where governments fall frequently through democratic means and without too many economic consequences, every time Ecuadorians overthrow a President the country, regardless of its noble intents, takes two steps backwards. Furthermore, whereas Ecuador ’s neighbors Colombia and Peru control their own currencies, Ecuador is placed at a strategic disadvantage by having to work with the (at least momentarily) stronger American dollar. As a result, Ecuador ’s exports are made more expensive and successive governments make little gains in asserting Ecuador ’s presence in the international market. Rafael Correa was the only Presidential candidate to propose an alternative to the political and economic status-quo.

“Therefore, if Correa and Alainza/Acuerdo País have a monopoly on the direction of change it is because the opposition failed to sense the movement of the political winds and respond to Ecuadorians’ desire for some sort of alternative. Ecuador , Venezuela , and Bolivia are similar in that all three elected left-leaning Presidents

who proposed new constitutions to solve each respective country’s problems. The similarities all but end there.

“ Ecuador is not Venezuela for a number of reasons, the most important being that President Correa has no where near the economic clout and strategic importance as does Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. To argue that Ecuador is on the same path as Venezuela is to ignore the fact that both Presidents have very different

personalities (although neither is a consensus-builder), both have very different backgrounds (Chavez=military, Correa=economist), and both have different views of their countries’ place in the world. Even though both came to power at times when traditional political parties where almost completely discredited, thus creating a void they could fill with new political movements, Correa, unlike Chavez, has to keep in mind that Ecuadorian society shall not hesitate to pull the plug on any leader it regards as breaching his powers. Hugo Chavez does not live with the same threat, and as a result he has been able to govern in a way that is much more carefree than and improvised than Correa will ever be able to achieve.

“When one begins talking about Ecuador and Correa as a puppet of Venezuela , one admits an open refusal to engage in the country’s political context and see events for what they are. In other words, when one starts talking about Venezuela one stops talking about Ecuador .

“It is an undeniable fact that Rafael Correa has a greater appeal amongst Ecuador ’s poor majority than amongst its wealthy minority. Nevertheless, to suggest that Ecuador ’s democracy is being held hostage by the idiot-poor again represents a failure to engage with the country’s political context. Ecuadorians, rich and poor, have grown tired of the status quo. As a consequence many were willing to provide Correa/PAIS with a mandate to bring about wide-spread change.”

Arévalo then goes into a review of Ecuador ’s political process which we’ll skip here but ends by saying:

“My purpose in this is not to offer an apology for the current government or its actions, but to bring to light the fact that Rafael Correa’s success is as much a product of the opposition’s failure as any other factor. As easy as it is to blame Venezuela, the poor, and whatever other easily available scapegoat one can find, the truth is that the march towards change has been set in progress and the only thing that can stop it is if the assembly representatives choose to abuse the power they’ve been given rather than utilize it to restore governability and the rule of law. As such Ecuadorians have two choices: either engage in a battle of ideas or resign themselves to complaining over choclito con queso. If recent events in Venezuela have anything to show us it is that where there is a democratic will there is a democratic way. So long as the process remains democratic (which, up until this point, it has), then the list of contributors to this brave new world has yet to be written.”

This final comment makes a really important point…the process in Ecuador is and has been democratic for centuries. The choices of the people may not always have been good…but in many ways this democracy has been stronger than in the US (where the current president was originally put into office against the vote of the majority). In the long run what creates a democracy is the energy and the will of the people.

Another Ecuadorian attorney, our friend, Dr. Andres Cordova, shared a really important balanced thought.

The energy of a country is in its people and we like the energy of the Ecuadorians.

Andres has a great political background. His grandfather was one of Ecuador ’s Presidents. His law firm represents

Several Ecuadorian agencies and he wrote:

“Dear Gary: Ecuadorians have once again headed to the polls to elect the delegates for the Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Constituyente). This Constituent Assembly, the brainchild of socialist President Correa, will draw up a new constitution that will then have to be approved by referendum.

“There are many political groups running this. So much so that seeking to elect the very best individuals from all the lists (as opposed to voting for everybody in a single list) was a daunting task. Long lines were at the polls!

“While many people have set high hopes on a new, improved Constitution, my take is that the one we currently have is quite good already. I’ve always said that in Ecuador you can’t make structural changes by legislation as is the apparent wish of our feverish lawmakers every now and then.

“There are several areas in which the current Constitution needs improvement, sure. For example, in what regards the conformation of some public entities such as the Electoral Tribunal, in charge of everything election related. Some say it’s too politicized. I agree!

“But in general the current Constitution is good enough. The idea of a new Constitution to be drafted is always a source of concern as you never know what the end product may turn out to be. In any case I don’t expect that things will change much, for worse or better. For example, I see it a far stretch to think that private property rights or the promotion of free entrepreneurship will be affected in any way. Or that the rights of foreigners will be limited under the new Constitution.

“Some believe that this Constituent Assembly, were President Correa is likely to have the most seats (but no voting majority) is a stint by the President to have it institute the possibility of immediate presidential reelection (currently not possible) giving him the chance to make his current “client based” politics more meaningful for such purposes. Who knows?

“ Ecuador for the most, needs stability and stronger institutions to bloom. Reinventing the country every few years like so many politicians announce they’ll do does not work in this favor. Ecuador has come a very long way in recent years, I can see it, but the road ahead is still long and bumpy. We have so much going for ourselves that I guess we’ll be okay whatever happens. What’s frustrating at times is that we can be so much more.

“I hope I’m proven wrong by a new Constitution that serves as a better platform for our social and economic development. All the best, Andrés”

This is the key point. Ecuador has a freedom loving, energetic population…politically confused perhaps but Ecuador is rich in so many ways that it gets my vote…in the way I express myself…with dollars. I am in the process of buying nine more properties in Ecuador right now.

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