Ecuador: Lasso No Longer Wants Massive Vote Recount

By Marco Teruggi on February 16, 2021

Attempts to block the victory of Andres Arauz

The right-wing candidate intimidated the electoral power to “proclaim the results of the first round”. On Friday he had agreed with Yaku Perez, the CNE and the OAS to review almost six million votes.

Ecuador is currently experiencing a time of turbulent waters and speculation. What seemed clear on Friday afternoon was no longer clear on Sunday night, or, at least, it seems so. On Friday afternoon, a pact was made between Guillermo Lasso, the runner-up in the February 7 elections, Yaku Perez, the National Electoral Council (CNE) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

There, without the presence of any other candidate, they agreed to carry out a recount of votes in 17 provinces of the country: 100% in Guayas and 50% in the others, for a total of about six million votes, over a period of about 15 days that was to begin this Tuesday. The latter was explained on Saturday afternoon by the president of the CNE, Diana Atamaint, one day after the brief announcement about the recount announced without details.

On Saturday afternoon, there had were already acknowledgements from Luis Almagro, secretary of the OAS, remembered for his central role in the coup in Bolivia in 2019, and from the US government, through the acting undersecretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Julie Chung, who affirmed that the CNE’s decision would allow an “improvement of the guarantees for the candidates and the citizenry”.

The scenario of a recount pact was, however, left in question, when Lasso published a letter on Sunday afternoon addressed to Atamaint. There, in a change of position, he urged the CNE to “proclaim the results of the first electoral round”, pointed out the supralegal character of the agreement and the danger that the electoral power would fall into “illegal and even criminal acts”, stated that the vote count should be in seven provinces instead of the 17 initially agreed, and pointed out that Perez could be trying to “forge a fraud” with the recount process.

The letter was followed by an exchange of accusations between Perez and Lasso on social networks, where the latter again accused of “attempted fraud and chaos to democracy”. The Pachakutik candidate, on his part, accused Lasso of wanting to carry out a fraud: “with what moral authority do you aspire to be president if you commit fraud, first you say that they open the ballot boxes because he who has nothing to lose, fears nothing’ and now that they do not open the ballot boxes, fraud after fraud, a mockery to the CNE, the OAS and the people of Ecuador”.

The change of situation, added to the little clarity offered by the electoral power, thus threw a picture of confusion that, in the hours of Monday, added a new element: the announcement of a mobilization for Tuesday by the Confederation of Peoples of the Kichwa Nationality of Ecuador (Ecuarunari) -of which Perez was president between 2013 and 2019, when he won the governorship of Azuay- due to the “retraction of Mr. Lasso” expressed on Sunday.

“We will mobilize in the territories and walk to the city of Quito to defend the interests of 18 million Ecuadorians (…) if we have to fight we have to fight, if we have to go to jail we will go to jail, if they assassinate us we will be assassinated, but never on our knees”, affirmed Carlos Sucuzhañay, president of Ecuarunari, which is part of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).

Thus, the scenario went from an anti-correista pact, a shared objective between Perez and Lasso as they affirmed in the same meeting on Friday, to a difference between the candidates together with tensions in CONAIE, where certain sectors were opposed to an “agreement with the right (…) which would be illegitimate and unconsulted with the bases”.

One question, which has remained since Sunday night, has been: why did Lasso back out of Friday’s agreement? Was it because of internal pressures, for example, from his allies in the Social Christian Party? A real possibility of losing his second position at the end of the recount? The answers to this question would seem to be the key to understand how the electoral conflict in Ecuador may evolve.

There is also another element in the agenda of the contest: the recent visit to Quito by the Colombian Prosecutor, Francisco Barbosa, who, at the request of the Ecuadorian Prosecutor, Diana Salazar, brought with him what he called “information” on the financing of the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) for the campaign of Andres Arauz. The visit of the Colombian Prosecutor, linked to President Ivan Duque’s party, Centro Democratico, led by Alvaro Uribe, raised red flags about the existence of possible maneuvers to prevent a participation of Arauz in the April 11 ballot.

“Those who have co-governed the country together with Lenín Moreno want to cling to power, that is why they have tried, through anti-democratic ways, to disqualify our candidacy, now, with lies they want to pressure the justice system for a new episode of persecution (…) All this hoax has only one purpose: to prevent the Arauz-Rabascall binomial that leads the electoral preference from participating in the second round”, said Arauz this Monday.

The next days could be marked by further news and changes, in the framework of a presidential election in a country marked by the persecution via lawfare on the citizen revolution, a transversally questioned institutionality, the interference of international actors, and an oscillation between the attempt of anti-correístas electoral pacts – with possible projections to government plans – and sudden turns – at least on the surface – such as the one that occurred on Sunday.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Internationalist 360