The “Citizen Revolution” led by Correa now proposes to take a further step in the democratic transformation of the country by means of a new inheritance law and a new law on profits. The proposed inheritance law would impose a progressive tax on inherited property with a value equivalent to 100 times the minimum salary, which at present would be a value of 35,400 US dollars. Only 2.5% of Ecuadorians receive an inheritance, and of these, only 10% receive an inheritance of such value. Inasmuch as the government of Correa would use the additional state income to further advance social programs for the popular classes, the new law would tax the wealthiest sector in order to provide services and benefits to the poor, workers, and the middle class. Furthermore, the proposal includes measures that are designed to eliminate loopholes and tax evasion. In a similar vein, the proposed law on profits would stop illegitimate profits obtained through speculation in the sale of land and property, above all in zones where there are government works and projects.
Understood in global historical context, the proposed laws are similar to the Keynesian measures of the capitalist economies of Europe and the United States during the period 1929 to 1980, which developed progressive inheritance taxes and took modest steps to control the excesses of financial speculation. Nonetheless, in the context of Latin America, which has the highest level of inequality in the world, and which historically has been ruled by an oligarchy that has made few concessions to the social and economic rights of the people, the proposed laws have provoked reactionary movement.
The Ecuadoran oligarchy, the Ecuadoran Right, and their international allies are using the proposed laws in order to seed popular confusion and political destabilization, seeking to undermine the new constitutional order established by the Citizen Revolution. They are taking advantage of their control of the media of communication to disseminate misinformation among the people, maintaining that the proposed laws will impose high taxes on the people. They have organized demonstrations and protests, in some cases violent protests.
In response to the initiative of the Right, Correa called for a mass demonstration and proclaimed a day of “happiness and revolution.” Thousands of Ecuadorans responded to the call, demonstrating their support for the president in a mass “mobilization of happiness.” In addition, Correa announced a temporary withdrawal of the two proposed laws. He expressed a desire to avoid conflict and violence, particularly at a moment when the country is preparing to host a visit by Pope Francis from July 5 to July 8. Correa, a devout Catholic, indicated his desire to receive the Pope in an atmosphere of peace.
Furthermore, Correa called for a national dialogue concerning the proposed laws. He challenged the Ecuadoran Right to arrive with proofs in hand, showing to the country the supposedly negative consequences that would result from the enactment of the proposed laws. He insisted that arguments are required, not shouts and manipulations. He indicated that he is prepared to shelve the proposals indefinitely, if the Right can demonstrate the negative consequences of the proposed laws for the poor and the middle class.
Correa also commented on the manner in which some middle class and upper class Ecuadorian youth have been speaking of the poor. These youth, he asserted, believe that the poor are to be blamed for their poverty, claiming that they lack the personal qualities that would enable them to improve their economic situation. Against this view, Correa maintained that poverty has deeply rooted historic and systemic roots, for which the poor are the least responsible. He rejected a disparaging view of the poor as an explanation of poverty.
Correa maintained that the national dialogue should include debate concerning the kind of nation Ecuadorans wish to create. The Citizen Revolution, he asserted, seeks a more just society, in which wealth is more equally distributed, giving priority to the people and not to the directors of companies.
Although it implies a delay in the implementation of the proposed laws, the proposal of a national dialogue, challenging opponents to present evidence and arguments, is an intelligent strategy, for it seeks to move the conflict to a terrain less subject to manipulation by particular interests. One of the most potent arms of the popular movements of the last two centuries has been the use of reason: analyses of important trends in human history, the presentation of fundamental historical and social facts, and the reaffirmation of universal human values. The world forces of opposition and reaction have responded to this popular challenge not with reason and reasonable argument. Instead, they have cast reason aside in order to defend their special privileges and particular interests. They have sought, with considerable success, to stimulate popular fear and confusion by means of, first, ideological distortions that ignore fundamental historical and contemporary facts, and secondly, through the discrediting of popular leaders with lies and half-truths. Their most important arms are the sound bite and superficiality; their most powerful enemy is informed discourse rooted in understanding and commitment to universal human values. The challenge confronting the global social movements is to establish reason, informed understanding, and commitment to universal human values as the basis of political action and social development. The accomplishment of this task would mark a decisive turn in the construction of a more just and democratic world-system, a process that has begun from below.
Although Correa has appropriately raised the challenge of reasoned discourse, it is not clear that the Ecuadorian Right will accept it. Correa’s call for a national dialogue has been praised by the Conference of Bishops and the Chamber of Industry and Production, but opposition leaders have announced the continuation of the protests and street demonstrations. They perhaps are not interested in reasoned discourse concerning the proposed laws and the future of Ecuadoran society, for their true intention is to destabilize a newly established constitutional process that has removed the elite form a privileged position of power. They reject the recently-established decision-making process that gives priority to the interests and needs of the people.
The Citizen Revolution is rooted in popular movements in opposition to the neoliberal project that emerged in the late 1990s. By 2005, popular mobilizations in Ecuador were demanding the dismissal of the Supreme Court, the President, and all the politicians. They expressed opposition to: the US proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA); the participation of Ecuador in Plan Colombia; the US military base in Colombia; the increasing impoverishment of the people; and the neoliberal dismantlement of education, public health, and social security. They defended the sovereignty of the nation against the neocolonial intentions of the United States. They proclaimed the need to pay the social debt before the external debt.
Rafael Correa, a former college professor born into the lower middle class, became a known political figure in 2005, when he was named Minister of the Economy and immediately proceeded to make public statements critical of the International Monetary Fund and implying support for the popular proposals. In 2006, he formed a new political party, Nation Alliance, which proposed a Constitutional Assembly. Correa won the presidential elections of 2006 on the second round, receiving ample support from the popular movements and organizations. On his Inauguration Day, January 15, 2007, he initiated the process for a Constitutional Assembly. In spite of opposition by the Right, a popular referendum approved the convoking of a constitutional assembly, elections to the constitutional assembly were held, and a new constitution was approved via popular consultation. Inasmuch as the candidates of Nation Alliance and others who supported the political-economic proposal of Correa had an ample majority in the Constitutional Assembly, the new Constitution has a progressive character, reflecting the new political reality in Latin America today.
Correa was elected to the Presidency under the new constitution in 2009 and was reelected in 2013. The Nation Alliance and its allies from newly-formed non-traditional parties of the Left have a strong majority in the Legislative Assembly.
Correa has proclaimed himself a proponent of “socialism for the twenty-first century,” which is adapted to the particular needs of Ecuador and is different in important respects from classical socialism. His government has sought to defend the sovereignty of the nation, in opposition to neocolonial structures of the world-system. It has re-negotiated the external debt and has emphasized social spending and national industrial development.
On January 29, 2015, Rafael Correa and Ecuador assumed the presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
For more on Rafael Correa and the Citizen Revolution in Ecuador, see About Rafael Correa. For speeches by Correa, see ¨The eradication of poverty is a moral imperative for our region and for the entire planet¨ and “Address by Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, at the Seventh Summit of the Americas, Panama City, Panama, April 12, 2015.”