Festive Left Friday Blogging Too: Rafael Correa visits Seville

Rafael Correa meets with the Mayor of Seville, in Spain. And that’s not all he’s up to over there:

Rafael Correa arrived yesterday afternoon at Pablo de Olavide University in Seville, accompanied by crowds.

He came to tell how Ecuador emerged from its debt crisis or, as he puts it, “the long neoliberal night” that submerged his country in the 1990s: the joint actions of insatiable bankers, corrupt politicians, and governments blindly obedient to the deregulatory formulae of the IMF and World Bank.

It seemed as though he was describing the situation in Spain and Southern Europe, because the description of the process was almost a carbon copy. So as not to provoke diplomatic conflicts, he warned at the outset of the conference that he “did not come to give advice to the government of Spain as to how to get out of the crisis, but to describe what happened” in his own country.

The conference room was crowded with students, and three more auditoriums in which they followed his speech by videoconferencing. Even so, the crowds overflowed the venues.

Outside, on the campus, a great mass of students who had been unable to get in, were yelling as the conference went on: “Bring out Correa!”

Throughout the speech, Correa avoided referring to Spain directly.

The president of Ecuador dated the origin of his country’s economic problems to the 1970s, in the middle of the oil boom. In that period, Ecuador’s economy grew by 10% annually, faster than China at the time. So, when there was an excess in liquid assets, bureaucrats from the IMF and World Bank began to appear in Quito, preaching aggressive indebtedness. The country began to buy compulsively from the exterior, all sorts of goods, and of course, highly expensive armaments as well.

In 1982, Ecuador could not pay its debt, and the situation exploded. Therefore, Correa said, “the financial logic of the IMF, which prioritizes the payment of the debt above all, came into play”. Successive Ecuadorian governments felt they had to go into debt again and again, just to pay the interest, which kept accumulating, on a debt that also kept on growing.

“The objective of the economy became the payment of debts of the state itself, and of the banks, while the population grew poorer,” added Correa, to fervent applause from the students. “It was the same infernal circle in which Greece and Portugal are now,” said Correa, without mentioning the host country of Spain.

In Ecuador, the president emphasized, “the private internal debt of the banks was paid using external loans, but at the cost of indebting the state.” Again, he did not mention Spain. But he recalled that two years ago, during a visit to Portugal, he advised that government of the risk of the same thing happening there.

The next step Ecuador took is well known: “Then came the privatizations, the deregulations, social spending cuts, all preached by the Washington Consensus, the neoliberal bible for Latin America.” (Something similar to what Berlin and Brussels are now preaching for Europe.)

“They imposed laws on us,” said the president, “which they said would spur competitiveness and flexibility at work, the same which were used to exploit the workers.” The students’ applause and enthusiasm grew. “They demonized public spending when it was to pay the teachers, but not when it was for buying weapons.”

In Ecuador, in the year 2000, 16 banks failed.

“So the politicians, who didn’t represent the citizens, but the economic powers, did everything they could to make the people pay for the crisis.” Again Correa took great care not to mention Spain, but the students in the four rooms applauded wildly.

Correa said that shortly before the collapse, the government put i place the Deposit Guarantee Fund, which would not have been a bad idea, if it had only not been to cover the losses of financial entities that failed immediately afterward. “That’s how they socialized the banks’ losses.”

The Ecuadorian president still made no comparisons with Spain.

The seizure of deposits in Ecuador was known as the “corralito”. It was a prohibition on the part of the government to prevent citizens from using the cash they had in the bank. Then came the dollarization, the suicides (“we came to know a new phenomenon — youth suicide”), and the emigration of thousands upon thousands of Ecuadorians. (Some of whom were present at the conference).

Correa openly criticized the independence of the European Central Bank, “which is not doing what is necessary for Europe to emerge from the crisis”.

“The idea that the economy is not political is not founded in serious analysis, and it’s stupid to argue that the technocrats who dictate are making decisions without concrete political interests, as if they were celestial beings who are not contaminated by earthly evil.”

Then Correa addressed the students, and told them: “The international financial bureaucracy, when it makes decisions, isn’t thinking about solving your problems, it’s thinking of the payment of the debt.” And he said it with the elegance of making the subject the international bureaucracy, not local politicians.

But he was more direct in referring to a sign he had seen in Seville this morning, reading: “People without homes and homes without people.”

“If we follow the logic of financial powers, it will come to the worst of all possible worlds, one in which people have no homes, and the banks will have houses they don’t need.”

The evictions are inhumane, Correa said, and “it’s illogical that someone who loses a house by not being able to pay it off still remains indebted for life.”

The president explained that when he came to power in 2007, he took several immediate measures: eliminating the hegemony of the Central Bank, auditing and restructuring the debt, eliminating illegitimate debt, and buying back debt bonds at 35% of their face value. Later he paid off the rest, “to get free from the conditionalities of the IMF, like Brazil or Venezuela.”

Correa finished up by recalling that “I expelled the World Bank mission from Quito, and for six years the international financial bureaucracy hasn’t come back to my country. Now we are better than ever.”

Translation mine.

I can well imagine the applause he must have gotten from the Spanish students for that. Half of all young Spaniards are currently out of work thanks to the international financial bureaucracies that El Ecuadorable was referring to. The former poverty of Ecuador, and the validity of Correa’s solutions to the conditions that created it, would not have been lost on them…even though he never mentioned Spain directly.

As for the cancellation of debt by buying back debt bonds for a fraction of their face value, this is a strategy now being used by the Occupy movements of the United States on a smaller scale, to cancel medical debts and help people keep their homes rather than losing them to bankers and debt-collection agencies. How much longer before it becomes a large-scale strategy for governments in Europe and North America?

Or in other words: How much longer before we all elect Ecuadorables of our own?

This entry was posted in Economics for Dummies, Ecuadorable As Can Be, EuroPeons, Festive Left Friday Blogging, Filthy Stinking Rich, Isn't It Ironic?, Karma 1, Dogma 0, Socialism is Good for Capitalism!, The United States of Amnesia, Under the Name of Spain. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Festive Left Friday Blogging Too: Rafael Correa visits Seville

  1. Jared Wolf says:

    Just want to say, I learned a lot from reading this. I don’t yet really understand the World Banks role in the economy or the financial crisis’. I think I’m on the brink of getting it now.

    It’s really interesting that you are Wiccan, and you appreciate Jesus at the same time. I watched a documentary about how most early Europeans worshiped nature, and fertility, and women were respected. And then religion came in and labeled all of those people “witches” and hunted them down like dogs. And then of course women were thought of as conduits of Satanic powers. I am Catholic, but I love nature, (I’m a big John Denver fan) and I can really relate to that kind of view. I have never met anybody like this. In school I was scolded for all my nature talk and “Idol worship” of waterfalls and mountains and the sky and clouds.

    Thanks for broadening my horizons. 🙂

    • Sabina Becker says:

      Hey, Jared, you’re welcome! And thanks for adding me on Facebook. That movie would’t have been The Burning Times, by any chance?

      I started out as a closet nature worshipper in grade school, myself. I used to slip down to a gully on my grandparents’ farm up North and meditate there at an altar I improvised from a fallen tree. I didn’t realize exactly what I was doing at the time, but I related a lot more to that than to the “lake of fire” dogmas that were being pushed on me around the same time. I lived across the street from a Baptist church back then, and got sucked into their religion classes by way of a children’s crafts class. When I realized what was going on, I never went back. I kept visiting the gully instead, and eventually met Hathor there while mourning over the bones of some old dead cows I had found. I piled them on my altar and cried a bit. She told me that the cows were fine because they were with Her now. Later I saw a statuette of Her in a children’s encyclopedia and realized that this must have been who I was talking to down there in the gully. And that was when I knew the fundies had been trying to sell me a phony world view. All this hellfire and damnation was a hard sell for something no one would buy unless they were scared to death. She taught me not to be scared, and later on I learned not to be fooled, either. But that all started happening ten years later, when I was at university and met the guy who became my best friend. (My politics started to change around the same time. Everything hangs together!)

      • Jared Wolf says:

        Yes! “The Burning times” was it! You sound like me, but my gully was a rock that sat in the middle of a creek. It was the only place I could find serenity. I wish I was better at meditation and could have experiences like yours. I don’t have enough self-awareness to understand myself, which makes it hard to have spiritual communication. The mourning you had for those cows bones, that’s a powerful thing! I can relate. I feel that way every time I walk by a McDonalds. I am a pretty “radical” vegan. lol. My wife and I don’t use shampoo, toothpaste, or any other necessities that aren’t animal free. I hope you don’t think me a lunatic, but I’ve even have the line of thinking that driving a car is not for me, because cars run on fuels that came from ancient animals. I have never told anybody that I feel that way, because even I have a hunch I might be getting carried away. You may not even be vegan. 🙂

        Hathor is Horus’ mother, right? Isis gathered the body parts of Osirus and put him back together to conceive Horus, but I thought I read somewhere that Hathor is his real mother. When you met Hathor, and she comforted you, how did she communicate with you? That’s probably too personal, eh? I’m just curious, because I feel very disconnected from reality. It might be the Catholic in me, but I live daily being very conscious of my heart beat, hoping it keeps beating because I believe I am most likely going to end up in that “lake of fire.” No matter which religion you espouse, there is always another domination somewhere that will tell you that you’re wrong, you know what I mean?

        • Sabina Becker says:

          Yes, I think I know what you mean…and no, I’m not vegan (or even vegetarian). But I don’t think you’re crazy for being one, either. Striving for a sustainable world and a humane one, in whatever way you can, is good! And yes, fossil fuel comes from ancient animals and plants, and the pollution it causes hurts modern animals and plants (and us, too.) I’m a non-driver right now more because I had a panic attack the day I was to take my test several years ago, and never went back. (Gonna need to work on that issue from within myself.) But the environmental angle is important to me, too. I try to walk, ride a bike or take public transit wherever I can.

          Now, about Hathor: I guess I should have clarified that I met Her when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. So Her approach was tailored according to whatever would comfort a little kid and not freak her royally out. I didn’t see or hear anything, I just suddenly felt a presence nearby. It was very old, very wise, and very definitely female. And slightly amused by my grief. She wasn’t there for very long, just enough to metaphorically put an arm around my shoulders and let me know that the afterlife wasn’t a bad place. And that what the bible-thumpers across the street from my house were trying to teach me was very incorrect and out of tune with nature, not to mention that it went against the lovingkindness that Jesus preached (and he was very clear about that, as I’m sure you’re well aware!) She wasn’t preachy or judgmental, just gently present to set me straight. Then, when Her work was done, She went on Her way, satisfied that I understood. It was only a single episode, and I was not a trained meditator or a practising anything, yet. But it set a tone that stuck with me ever after.

          I hadn’t heard that Hathor was Horus’s real mother, but seeing as Egyptian worship was very syncretic (with deities being adopted from neighboring tribes and nations all the time), it wouldn’t surprise me if She and Isis became “fused” somewhere along the way, or if their mythologies did. Cow mythology is very common in the Indo-European world, and cow goddesses were often revered as divine mothers, as Isis was. It’s probably an outgrowth of ancient hunter-gatherer beliefs, when people communed with the spirits of animals — first to hunt them, and later to farm them. It was probably common to ask the animal for the gift of its life first, and not to kill it unless consent was given. So it logically follows that people would pray before a hunt, not to some external force, but directly to the animals they wanted. And later, when domestication became a part of human life, they would have prayed to the spirits of the animals they wanted to keep for milk (cows, goats, etc.), wool (sheep, goats), or company (wolves who became dogs, wild cats who became tame), or transportation (oxen, horses, etc.) Animal spirits eventually became deities, either animal-headed gods or ones capable of shape-shifting fully into animal form, for some cultures, or remained spirit/totem animals in others (eg. Native belief systems.)

          Anyhow: Have you ever read The Pagan Christ, by Tom Harpur? According to his research, Christianity evolved out of Egyptian Horus-worship, and the parallels between Horus mythology and the Jesus story of the Gospels are striking. Especially the death and resurrection angle. It’s another reassuring refutation of the “hellfire and damnation” fallacy, from a Christian perspective. It’s also kind of a confirmation that everything “new” is really older than it looks. I have it in my library somewhere; I should dig it out again. It’s a terrific book.

  2. Arnold Ziffel says:

    Thanks for the post Bina. I don’t speak Spanish but fyi –

    Rafael Correa. Encuentro con migrantes ecuatorianos en Sevilla, régimen español, 2012


    • Sabina Becker says:

      Arnold! Hey, good to see you again! And thanks for that. It seems that a lot of Ecuadorians who emigrated to Spain during the crisis have been trying to get home again now that Spain is in crisis and Ecuador is not. Quite the seesaw, eh? Let’s hope their prez can help them out there…

  3. Jared Wolf says:

    I have heard of the similarities between Horus and Jesus, and also the similarities between the Ten Commandments/Mosaic law and Hammorabi’s Code in ancient Sumer, I think. “Christ Mythology.” I doubt though that Jesus didn’t exist. There are logical reasons to believe in Him, if not as divine, at least as a historical figure. Biblical interpretation is what screws with my head though, personally. But when you think about the way the Egyptians worshiped the Sun, it goes down at night and “rises again” in the morning. A metaphor for resurrection? Jesus is called the Morning Star in Revelations from what I remember. Hmmmm.

    I’ve been enlightened! That explains the sphinx and all the other animal heads on human bodies I’ve seen. It all makes sense now…the hunter gatherers from the early civilizations. Cool! Egyptology is fascinating stuff. The Egyptians are responsible for the single greatest contribution to mankind in history…The book of Mormon. Just kidding.

    I’m curious about what it means to be Wiccan. I’ll have to study up on it. It’s really nice to meet you Sabina! Rick put me in touch with “his best communist friends.” (Though you may not like that label?) I had met a few of them already on FB and they were all Atheists, which is all good of course. Though I was under the impression that to be a member of the Communist Party of Canada, you can’t be religious because “religion is the opiate of the masses.” So it’s nice to know that some of us have a little spirituality, and that atheism isn’t mandatory, hah. I’m going to this demonstration tomorrow in Hamilton to protest the Israeli aggression. Luckily it is taking place within walking distance of my house, because I can’t even take a bus or cab very far, not because I’m vegan. Ha. But because I have GAD/panic disorder. I’m venturing out of my comfort zone for the first time in a few years, I’ve got this damn social anxiety as well. But I’m seeing a whole world of opportunity now. Everybody’s gotta find their passion, right?

    PS. I wish there was a way to follow this blog on facebook so we can know when you write new ones. 🙂

    • Sabina Becker says:

      Why thank you! When I add a fairly major new piece, I usually post it to my Facebook feed, as well. And I tweet it, too.

      I need to clarify a few more things, though:

      I’m not a communist, myself. I’m an NDPer and a garden-variety socialist of the Tommy Douglas kind. I’m not anticommunist either, though; I’ve seen the fascism that got wrought in the name of anticommunism, and I reject that totally. I draw inspiration from Fidel and Che, and I don’t care who hates them. They managed to hold an empire at bay, and for that, they deserve respect, is my basic feeling. Even if I don’t agree with all points of the ideology, I can see the basic good of it. And if the progressive parties of Canada decide to unite, like the PSUV in Venezuela, I’m fine with that as long as all the left gets to join. I’m not much for sectarianism, because I know how that turned out for the German left in the 1920s and ’30s, and I like to hope I’ve learned my history lessons there. (I have fewer arguments with communists than I do with lukewarm liberals, and that makes me wonder sometimes who the really tolerant ones are.)

      I’m not sure who the historical Jesus was or if he really existed, but if he did, he was almost certainly an anti-imperialist freedom fighter. The Roman Empire then was what the US empire is today. Some emperors were better than others, but when all was said, they were emperors. It stands to reason that there would be uprisings against it from time to time. So I wouldn’t rule out such a leader!

      But yes, the Ten Commandments and the other Old Testament laws have much in common with the Code of Hammurabi, as well as ancient Egyptian laws. The Commandments, in particular, are a direct descendant of the vows taken by Egyptian priests; they had to swear they had not committed a whole laundry list of wrongs before they could be eligible for initiation. And since Moses was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised in the royal household, he was probably more than a little familiar with what the royal priests had to swear before they could serve in the temple!

      And yes, social anxiety…I hear you there. I used to get bad panic attacks in the early ’90s, when I was severely depressed. I was able to work, but it sapped the strength right out of me. I haven’t been that sick since, because I’ve been taking better care of my health and taking Vitamin B complex to nourish my nervous system. I suspect I was very deficient before and simply didn’t realize it because I wasn’t underfed. Being surrounded by people who didn’t understand, while trapped in a dead-end job, didn’t help either. And lacking creative and other outlets was also a factor.

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