There is always something awful and tragic about watching a perfectly good ship sink. It is of course, significantly more distressing if one is on board at the time! To further imagine the captain and crew themselves … those specifically in charge of your and the ship’s well-being, were entirely responsible for the sinking … is almost inconceivable. Such is life, right now, in Ecuador, however. 😦
The purpose of this article is to document and describe the events which have transpired over the near-decade I’ve been here, as succinctly and cogently as possible, such that anyone interested will be able to understand the nature of the tragedy which has befallen Ecuador … and which has resulted in the dire conditions people are currently suffering here. Conditions which, following a very dubious recent election (which resulted in the same incompetent and corrupt party of the last decade retaining power – and which millions believe is fraudulent) … are only likely to get worse. Make no mistake, Ecuador is a bitterly divided country right now. It is in no way over-reaching, to suggest a Venezuela-style demise is now very much on the cards.
A bit of context … I’m just a lifelong (and now middle-aged) world-traveller and entrepreneur, who eventually became so disillusioned with the manifest failings, obligatory compromises, debt-requirements, and lifestyle shortcomings of the so-called “first-world” that I finally decided to permanently put significant distance between myself, and it. Basically, I wanted to remove myself from what I see as a pathological illness … the virus of so-called first-world “civilisation.” So … away I went! 🙂
The year was 2008, and Ecuador was the destination. Six weeks after relocation, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit with full-force, completely paralysing the “developed” world, and upending everyone’s assumptions about how things worked (or rather, didn’t work). I felt vindicated … kind of like Steve Carell’s character in The Big Short … (a must-watch film if you’ve not yet seen it).
It seemed everything I had observed and commented unfavourably about for many years … was finally failing miserably, just as I’d long known it should. I felt I had somehow “escaped” … just in the nick of time … and I was grateful to be in my beautiful and peaceful new home, far from the madding crowd.
Meanwhile, I’d started a new real-estate business with a local partner in my adopted home in southern Ecuador, and it was going well. We had got up and running, just ahead of the curve of change which sent many North-Americans scurrying southwards. They were headed this way for many reasons, but foremost amongst them was a profound (post-GFC) disillusionment with the US, its government, its corporatocracy, and the resultant financial inability for “average folks” to maintain a reasonable lifestyle anymore (especially in retirement).
It seemed there was a newly emergent critical mass of people realising the “game” was rigged against them, and had been for some considerable time. The quest for real adventure and meaningful lifestyle change was also present in many of these ideological and financial “refugees” … and Ecuador was here and there, atop all the “big lists” by that time, as being an ideal downsizing/retirement destination.
Our real-estate consultancy was perfectly placed to receive these folks, and we dealt with many happy clients over the ensuing years … helping them navigate their way through the very murky waters which had often otherwise characterised the Ecuadorian (or Latin-American generally) real-estate scene. Life was good, and while certainly not in any danger of becoming a millionaire anytime soon, I was very happy, both in my new home, and that I could make an agreeable enough living whilst genuinely being of service to new arrivals in the region.
As many readers will know, International Living (IL) magazine played an enormous role in the numbers of folks who came streaming into Ecuador since 2008. IL ranked Ecuador as Number One in the world for many years. They wrote hugely enticing sales-pitches and hosted endless seminars about the quality of life, the prices, the beauty, and the value for money of relocating to “Paradise.” Build it and they will come … and in this case they certainly did.
As a realtor dealing mostly with foreign arrivals, I was always hugely conflicted about International Living. Yes, they were responsible for some clients we would otherwise not have received … but … because they so profoundly misrepresented Ecuador in their articles, I was often more of a “re-educator” about the realities of Ecuador, than I was a realtor. And when you burst people’s dream-bubbles, the results generally aren’t too pretty. So, because of my uncensored approach when dealing with clients, I bore the brunt of some genuine unhappiness … which was in truth, directly attributable to the dashed false expectations which IL had certainly been responsible for generating.
Anyway, I digress. The point I was keen to make is that for the most part, Ecuador was seeming to have been a very good decision, not just for me, but for many. The vast majority of those who came here were happy here (once they adjusted to the cultural and lifestyle differences – and learned some Spanish to get by). Certainly, compared to the mess most of the rest of the world was in, Ecuador was by any measure, apparently having it pretty good. 🙂
Keeping in mind that Ecuador had (up until Correa) previously suffered seven presidents in only ten years, it seemed he was really doing a stand-up job of running the country in a relatively “stable” and acceptable manner. But there was, for many, always an undercurrent of “too good to be true.” For example, he adapted the Constitution early on, to give rights to Nature, but simultaneously expanded his executive powers in other areas to an extent which made many doubters uncomfortable. People wanted to believe … but sadly, over time, it was the doubters who would ultimately be proven correct.
As near as I can pinpoint it, the “Correista worm” really started turning sometime in early 2013.
Humanity had successfully traversed “end-times-prophecies” by waking up unscathed on 22nd December 2012. Nobody I knew seemed to have ascended, and people were apparently resigned to getting on with their lives once again. Those who had bought properties and battened down the hatches in Ecuador specifically to ride out the end of the world and global collapse … zipped their previously enthusiastic end-times rhetoric, muttered darkly about “stupid Mayans,” sized up their next destinations, and put their properties back on the market for us to sell. It still amazes me that these things really happened … at times it often felt like living in a movie!
Anyway, back to the turning worm. There are many things which have contributed to the current sorry state Ecuador is in, but for the purposes of this article I will simply be relating my personal experiences and observations, as well as information gleaned from the many discussions I’ve had with local Ecuadorians and long-term-expats over time. I will also be highlighting a variety of these issues by bullet-point, with links to supporting information/articles/etc … for anyone who is interested in clicking through to an array of information they may have previously been unaware of.
At this point I’d like to make clear it is somewhat ironic (and not just a little frustrating!) that the majority of expats here in Ecuador STILL remain unaware of how bad things are (let alone how bad they may get!).
There are three main reasons for this.
- They live in a “gringo” language and culture bubble, insulated by wealth (and by design) … which sees them having practically no meaningful interaction with their host population. These kinds of expats typically have a moan about things like a bottle of their preferred wine having increased by $5 in price at Supermaxi. That’s about the extent of their awareness that serious unseen change is afoot … and invariably, they just “suck it up” without much further interest (or investigation). Why should they care? Still cheap, right!?
- Most assuredly, cognitive dissonance is also playing a serious part … people who have poured themselves, their golden-years-dreams, and hundreds of thousands of dollars (or over a million in many cases!) … often against the advice of family and friends … absolutely do NOT want to face the reality that their investments and properties here are currently worth much less than they paid into them … and that their Ecuadorian “net-worth” will continue to plummet under the re-birthed Alianza-Pais administration. They may not want to admit it, but it is true nonetheless … and sooner or later, that brutal reality will be impossible for them to avoid.
- The fact that the vast majority of foreigners here do not work at ground level in Ecuador (and therefore have no clue about what is really going on). Expats here are mostly retired, and existing on private investment income or foreign pensions, or if they are still working at all, are generating their income online, or otherwise, remotely. By my (purely anecdotal) reckoning, probably less than 5% of expats are legitimately engaged in any sort of “on the ground” business actually in Ecuador. Needless to say, if the extent of one’s governmental or municipal interactions are limited to paying water, electricity, and land-tax occasionally, one’s exposure to the cut and thrust of doing business here … and making a living here … is necessarily very limited.
As I said before, Ecuador once had some vitality and joie de vivre (in my first four or so years here). Since then however, for those paying even a modicum of attention, it has been a steady and terrifyingly noticeable decline into the depressing pit we now inhabit (even moreso since the dodgy election result).
The best way I can describe things here now, is that it’s like waking up each day with an increasingly heavier weight on one’s shoulders. It has been like that for four years already, and the knowledge there will be a continuation of the Alianza-Pais status-quo, is a crushing blow to anyone who understands what is really happening. One simply knows that even the most “ordinary” things are going to continue to be incredibly difficult to accomplish … to the point that, considering the inescapable futility, one is ultimately dissuaded from doing anything at all.
When this kind of demotivational malaise overtakes an entire country (which is certainly the case now in Ecuador) … the economic and accompanying social death-spiral probably cannot be halted. Certainly, these enormous problems now facing Ecuador cannot and will not be solved by the same “Alianza-Pais consciousness” which created them.
So, where to start, when there is such an awful lot to get through? Well, while on the subject of doing business, and working on the ground here in Ecuador, we might as well start there.
It is my contention (and the experience of multitudes I’ve spoken to) that since 2012/2013, the Correa government (for reasons best known to itself – and whether by design or stupidity) has systematically and consistently destroyed small to medium enterprises (SMEs) right throughout the country. When a country (any country!) loses its SMEs, the backbone of its domestic economy is gutted.
This means new businesses will not be created, existing businesses will quit or die, people will not be employed, things will not get built/done/made, etc … no money will be made/invested/circulated, no tax-revenue will be generated, business and investor confidence will evaporate, and the above-mentioned “death-spiral” will be entered into … a death-spiral which is very hard to reverse once it takes hold.
The shortsighted and catastrophically incompetent policies of Correismo (particularly the recent counterproductive changes to employment law – which immediately resulted in countless thousands of part-time or full-time Ecuadorian employees being completely laid off), created exactly such an environment (almost as if by design).
Interestingly (and predictably) enough, the government assiduously avoids its own employment regulations (that it expects everyone else to abide by) by only employing most people on six-month contracts, and then unceremoniously firing them. This is one reason the people one deals with in government offices are nearly always absolutely clueless about the processes they are supposed to be “processing,” and often look overjoyed if they can tell you “no hay sistema” (the system is down). Those poor souls have only been there such a short time, know nothing, and KNOW they are going to lose their jobs soon. So why bother learning anything in order to be helpful? They don’t care … they really don’t care. After all, they’ll be churned any day, and replaced with someone else who knows even less than they do!
Me, my friends, and associates have watched restaurants and many other local Ecuadorian businesses, enter that death spiral after being forced to fire many of their original and loved employees (thereafter perhaps informally “hiring” a couple of family members whom they trust enough not to sue them under the onerous employment laws).
Honestly, I have travelled all over the world, but I have never been as personally affected by (nor seen so many ordinary people punished by) … the sheer stupidity of government policy that we are currently witnessing here. I am telling you … it is a very sad thing to watch an entire domestic economy being suffocated by the punitive and idiotic strokes of clueless and venal bureaucrats’ pens. In Correa’s Ecuador, it is apparently preferable to crush the will and hope of a people with mindless bureaucracy and outrageous fines, fees and taxes … than to just kill them outright. 😦
Keep all this in mind, and then know that Alianza-Pais proceeded to double-down on this failing doctrine, expanded their already bloated “government” even further, and then relentlessly attempted to extract hard cash by any and all means from the very economy it was busy destroying. This, of course, is akin to getting blood from a stone one has already sucked dry.
The real tragedy in thinking here … is that if a government wants to make money from its people … it has to promote an economic environment which allows its people to make money. This elementary principle seems to have completely escaped the Correa administration’s attention.
In fact, my favourite analogy for the current situation, is that like the most insatiable vampire, the Correa government became a desperately engorged parasite, getting bigger and bigger (but never getting enough) … sucking its host (the Ecuadorian people) dry, thereby eventually killing it.
Obviously, any intelligent (and truly symbiotic) parasite realises that if its host dies, then it also dies, making the killing of the host counter-productive. But penny-wise and pound-foolish thinking seems to be what Alianza-Pais does best … and an awful lot of money can be misappropriated en-route to the death of a nation. That scenario, sadly, is what we are seeing play out now in Ecuador (one need only remove the word “global” in the below subtitle for it to be Ecuador-specific).How did this happen?
Well, let’s start with an easily understandable and relevant measure, and see what happened to it since Correa took power almost a decade ago.
“Ease of Starting a Business.”
The DoingBusiness.org website measures all sorts of key indicators across economies and regions. “Ease of Starting a Business” is one of them. Out of all measurable countries (of which there are about 185) Ecuador’s ranking currently stands at 166. This means there are only a handful of countries on the entire planet, where it is considered more difficult to start a business, than it currently is in Ecuador. Indeed, there are some countries which are actually permanent war-zones where it is still easier to start a business than it is in Ecuador! Unfortunately, for some reason, the historical data for the ranking back in 2007/2008 seems to have disappeared, but from memory it was about 120 (not great – but not totally catastrophic). The bottom line? Under the Correa government, this crucial ranking slipped every single year, before reaching its current inglorious level of 166 out of 185 measurable countries.
If anyone can explain to me how making it almost impossible to start a business for one’s countryfolk … in any way constitutes a “citizens’ revolution,” I’d love to hear it. For someone who is apparently a US-trained economist, one would think incentivising and stimulating the local Ecuadorian economy would be a top priority. This has not been the case however … on the contrary, Correa’s government has demonstrably trashed the environment for SMEs to even survive, let alone flourish. 😦
Anyway, moving on. I’ll now document, in no particular order, the kind of things which have been happening since 2012/2013, which especially when taken together, should help anyone join the collective dots they need … in order to form an opinion of exactly what has happened to Ecuador, under Correa’s Alianza Pais.
Ecuador’s problems are often said to have started with the oil-price-plunge in 2014. Prices which had previously sometimes been north of $120/barrel plunged in a very short time, to as little as $30/barrel or less. Production costs are about $40/barrel, so to say this was catastrophic for Ecuador was an understatement. It transpired that despite enjoying “boom-years” of high oil prices, Correa’s Ecuador was taken completely off-guard by the correction … they had simply taken high prices for granted … and for years, swaggered around, spending like a drunken sailor.
One would think the “master economist,” Correa, would have wisely been salting away a proportion of those revenues for some kind of “rainy-day-fund” (earthquake, anyone?) while the oil-prices were high. But no … apparently not! Mismanagement? Incompetence? Negligence? One of them applies … pick whichever you like! 😦
The only “Plan B” Correa had, when this (entirely foreseeable!) “disaster” struck … was to go running back to the Chinese with cap in hand. The amount of Chinese debt which Ecuador holds … is now properly scary (nearing $10 Billion, of approximately $45 Billion of total national debt) … and will help to cripple the country for at least a generation to come. Although with the shenanigans of Alianza-Pais extending to fiddling the debt figures also, who knows? Must be the post-truth era, I guess. We have been here before in Latin-America … it does not end well.
Fortunately this should not trouble Correa himself, as he will soon be living the high-life in Belgium or France, swanning around the European lecture circuit, talking about the (fake) “economic miracle” he bestowed upon his beloved Ecuador … whilst no doubt blaming Moreno and other useful idiots who inherited the debt-bag, for the long-term failings and social chaos which will surely manifest as a result of his mind-bogglingly bad economic mismanagement.
So what went wrong for Ecuador? What the hell happened?
In a macro-context, and depending on which media one favours (especially for foreign observers), it would seem there are three major things which created the perfect storm which is in the process of sinking the good ship Ecuador.
- The oil-price-plunge … (resulting in massive Chinese debt-loading).
- The ever-appreciating US dollar (which is Ecuador’s currency).
- The crippling and demoralising effect of the April 2016 earthquake.
However, that is not the real story at all. There is a fourth issue, rarely publicised (certainly not in Ecuador), and to my mind, it eclipses all the others, because it is the root cause of Ecuador speeding towards the iceberg, and being unable to slow down … or change course.
The size, nature, corruption, venality and
incompetence of the Alianza-Pais government.
As I have said previously, a variety of pre-2014-problems started eating away at the fragile fabric of Ecuador’s economy. And all of them were related to the above … catastrophic government policy (the primary subject of this article).
Let’s go back to the real-estate market for a moment, which is something I was intimately involved with at ground-level, for many years. Sometime in 2013, the government started tinkering with real-estate law, and in quick succession, did two things which put the brakes completely on what was at that time, still a relatively healthy and functioning market.
Let me re-emphasise that now, barely four years later, Ecuadorian real-estate has never been in a worse place (in the last decade anyway). Four things have contributed to this over the last few years, and another two recent governmental actions put the final nails in the real-estate coffin.
1. Bureaucracy – Difficulty to Subdivide – Bureaucratically, it became almost impossible to subdivide larger properties into smaller pieces … hence a lack of marketable parcels/properties coming onto market.
2. Changing Residency Law – Making it much more difficult (or very unlikely) for a foreigner to be able to get residency by buying property (Investor’s Visa) … by changing not the threshold value itself ($26K for a couple), but the source from which that value was taken. The “Impuesto Predial” (municipal-rated land-tax value) was always a much lower value (sometimes by a factor of ten or more) than the “Escritura” value. Taking the threshold value from the land-tax document (rather than the actual “market price” of the Escritura) ensured anyone buying “land only” would almost certainly NOT be able to use that land for their residency, and would therefore have to come up with additional funds (or proof via another method), to get their residency. This had the effect of immediately (and permanently) chilling the market for any “land-only” properties, and inflating the market somewhat for any properties with existing infrastructure (houses, buildings, etc).
3. Introduction of (Rural) Building Permits – The introduction of construction permits being required for properties zoned rural … was another game-changer … but only for the worse. Simply another shameless money-grab, more power and bribing opportunities for clueless greedy bureaucrats, a poorly defined, time-consuming and costly process, all collectively providing a massive disincentive for anyone to buy land and build the home they wanted to build. Obviously this was complemented by an additional corresponding dip in the real-estate market for land-only properties (as per point 2 above). Viva la revolucion!
4. Evaporating Investor Confidence – Massive decrease in investor confidence generally – because of the direction the Correa government had pursued. This resulted in people leaving the country, and many others not wanting to come. This is (only partly) why it is such a “buyer’s market” right now. Ironically enough, current prices are only being held up even to the low extent they are … because there are less properties able to come onto the market (as per point 1) … and because prices are going so low that people just can’t bring themselves to put their property on the market at all!
Obviously at this point, the bureaucrats were wondering what else they could possibly do to kill the real-estate market completely DEAD … so they finally passed the capital-gains-tax (PlusValia) … which, along with SigTierras meddling (see below), was effectively the final stake through the heart for the real-estate market in Ecuador (for the foreseeable future).
On the upside, International Living’s ludicrous articles on finding “bargains in Ecuador” will no longer be as full of crap as usual. Good for people wanting to take a chance on Ecuador’s future … not so good for those who’ve seen their existing real-estate plummet in value, and are now perhaps trying to get out, before Ecuador potentially turns into Venezuela.
To close out the real-estate subject, the federal government agency SigTierras, a few years back, began a process of matching up their own recently undertaken pinpoint-GPS surveys of the whole country and all properties therein … against actual (and in many cases ancient) Escrituras (Deeds). If the SigTierras survey found an area of land GREATER than that which was listed on its Escritura, you are … wait for this!!! … required to BUY YOUR OWN LAND at the prevailing municipal-rated-value per m2 … from the government! We know of one person who was hit with a $32K bill for a discrepancy of about an acre (4,000m2). This guy wasn’t just anybody. He was wealthy, influential, connected, and angry. He challenged it … and he lost. Which means nobody else, least of all foreigners … would stand a chance of challenging ANYTHING this administration decides to inflict upon them. There is effectively no rule of law. All bases are covered by the Alianza-Pais executive (more about that later on).
Pwn is a leetspeak slang term derived from the verb own, as meaning to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term implies domination or humiliation of a rival, used primarily in Internet culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., “You just got pwned!”).
This is just one of many obvious examples of a desperately cash-hungry government devising new ways of robbing its people … to their faces. Just imagine having to suddenly pay AGAIN, for imaginary new land, (magicked out of bureaucratic thin air) that you (or your ancestors) already bought, perhaps generations ago (when property-line descriptions were more akin to “from the big tree to the bend in the creek”)! Doesn’t matter, people! It’s not about fairness … it is ONLY about the money!
So, a municipal lien for the “assessed amount” is then placed against the property in each such case, and until it is paid, the land-owner cannot legally sell his own land. Checkmate. 😦
Needless to say, this was the final brutal nail in the coffin for what was, only a few short years ago, a healthy, free and relatively fair Ecuadorian real-estate market. RIP Ecuador real-estate.
Okay … moving on.
Destruction of any (even faint concept!) of the “Separation of Powers.”
The other thing which always happens under such dictatorial “administrations” as Correa’s … is the complete takeover of the legislative and judicial branches of power by the executive. Once that’s accomplished (and Correa nailed that down early on), the media (and anyone else) can also be shut down and/or intimidated into toeing the party-line. This is when so-called “democracy” … becomes dictatorship.
This has been evident for a long time now in Ecuador, for anyone paying attention … and is only getting worse. Anybody who writes or speaks out in any significant way … is intimidated and ultimately silenced. Ask Crudo Ecuador, Ecotel TV (Loja), the Pacha Mama environmental foundation, Manuela Picq, or Fernando Villavicencio their thoughts on this phenomenon. There are countless other examples of heinous abuses, for anyone who wants to go looking.
Crudo Ecuador – anti-Correa online satirist gets death-threats and shut down for good.
Ecotel Loja – Loja TV station raided by paramilitary “cops” in the wee hours of the morning, and shut down (equipment stolen).
Pacha Mama Foundation – leading environmental agency shut down by force (equipment and records stolen – presumably to identify and further harass the membership).
Manuela Picq – activist was illegally beaten, jailed and expelled from Ecuador.
Fernando Villavicencio – journalist needed to seek political asylum for his own safety, in Peru.
Fundamedios – the Free-Speech-Watchdog, completely shut down by Correa.
For a variety of “state-beneficial” reasons, the “public service” contingent continues to bloat enormously, and all “employees” don’t remain employees for long unless they are (or become) Correa supporters … which of course, they all do. These wage-slaves provide a ready pool of folks who are REQUIRED to down tools (not that they were doing/achieving much anyway!) at a moment’s notice, to attend Correa functions, rallies, etc. So … they are either being paid to take time off work to provide enthusiasm for political events … or the non-“employees” are ACTUALLY paid to attend events. This is so accepted as part of “the norm” in Ecuador, it is not even commented on as corrupt practice anymore … it is simply “expected.” Bigger fish to fry, and all that. This is what happens when endemic corruption becomes normalised as “state-sanctioned behaviour.”
I dare anyone to watch this hilarious video where Correa supporters very publicly admit to being paid to attend his speaking event (much to Correa’s disbelief and mortification). It seems he over-rated their intelligence to help him out by “staying Mum.” 🙂
What else is there to do with that video, except laugh uproariously at the farce?
Anyway, moving on. Hopefully by now, my dear reader, you are beginning to understand the sheer ludicrousness of what is being perpetrated on the citizenry of Ecuador right now.
Continuing with the theme of the government’s desperation for cash, for just a moment, the multitudes of newly minted cops/officials (of which there are several species) … do very little to counter serious crime of any sort, but are told to go out and generate income for the State. Parking tickets, speeding tickets, any kind of “infringement” they can dream up, they will book you for. Ka-ching … into the gaping black money-hole of Alianza-Pais it goes.
Correa’s government has “invested” nationwide in the kind of revenue-raising radar speed traps which have infested the so-called “first-world” to such a ubiquitous extent now, that they are hardly even talked about in that way anymore. The brainwashing in the nanny-states of the so-called “developed west” is complete it seems. 😦
Vast sums of Ecuadorian money which could have been better invested into the local economy, helping earthquake recovery, or doing a million other useful and productive societal things … is instead diverted to these revenue-generating causes … whereby the state’s job is to drain its citizens of the little cash they’ve still managed to retain in the face of this grand onslaught.
The levels of these fines (given the basic monthly wage of around $400) … is simply outrageous. Speeding fines from “photo-multas” in excess of $300 are commonplace. These outrages combine nicely with things like the “impuesto verde” (environment tax on cars) … a blatant rort, which has additionally been responsible for the decimation of the market for vehicles with (often very needed) larger engines (in this mountainous terrain) … and is the main reason many vehicles now cost up to $500 or more (per year!) to legally keep on the road. Relate these costs to the basic monthly wage of $400, and one begins to realise the extent and insanity of the cash-grab.
Add to this the doubling or tripling or more … of all taxes, fees, charges … of any description … over the last few years, and one begins to see both the nature and scale of the problem.
For example, when introduced (which was an incredibly stupid idea anyway), the “exit tax” on funds transferred out of the country (impuesto de salida de divisas), was 0.5% (that is, half a percent). It is now 5% … a 1,000% increase! This blatant theft (there is no other word for it) of people’s hard-earned money … discourages money being brought into Ecuador. It discourages investment or confidence in Ecuador. It ensures people will only ever drip-feed their funds into Ecuador as needed. It is yet another classic example of penny-wise pound-foolish thinking … the Alianza-Pais specialty! And, as if all that wasn’t insane enough, you now cannot leave the country with more then $1,100 of your own money in cash. Anything above that will have the 5% confiscated from it. No. I am not joking. (On the bright side however, at this rate it is unlikely anyone will have more than $1,100 left by the time they decide to leave Ecuador.) 😉
I want to cover just one or two more things, and then we’re done … I promise! 🙂
When Correa came to power, for years he campaigned on a platform of helping the “little people,” the campesinos, the everyday workers of Ecuador. They responded jubilantly, rewarded him richly, and it has taken them quite a while to realise they’ve been conned … that the worm has turned on them … and turned significantly.
A great example of this is an innocuous sounding piece of legislation called the “Registro Sanitario (RS)” (Sanitary Registration). This little charmer was rolled out Ecuador-wide a few years ago, and basically states that nobody can sell any consumable item, without first having received the RS. One truly has to have lived in Ecuador for a while, to realise the ramifications of rolling out something as stupid as this, the way they did.
The bureaucracy, time, and cost involved in getting the “registro sanitario” certification for an edible product … is, quite simply, INSANE (just remember what I said previously about the the incompetence and venality of the bureaucracy) … and has consequently turned ordinary people into criminals. A case in point would be simple farmers, often illiterate, who for generations have taken their milk and cheese to market. They have not the time, skill, desire or money (for lawyers and fees) to navigate the bureaucratic processes necessary to obtain the stupid piece of paper they suddenly “need” … but if they continue to sell without it … they are now outlaws!
Into the bargain, the Alianza-Pais government now requires that EVERY cow or livestock be registered (more time) with a tag (more cost), and that those animals require (costly, regular, and multiple) vaccines. This means the produce is now no longer organic (or potentially safe) in any sense of the word. Needless to say, compliance is mandatory, and I’m sure the fines for being an outlaw are significant. 😦
I am not even going to touch on Correa’s complicity with Monsanto, his push for GMOs, terminator seeds, and the like. People can figure out pretty easily, the personal motivation driving those agendas! Ka-ching!
In closing, it is apparently not enough the degree to which these vampires are coming after you IN LIFE … they now also want to claw back as much of your wealth as they can once you’re dead. Enter the Ley de Herencia (Inheritance Tax). This tax has not legally made it through yet, and it remains to be seen whether Correa’s hand-picked successor Moreno will push for it as vigorously as Correa has. It has been forcibly shelved once or twice already (along with the aforementioned CGT), but the CGT is now law, and ultimately, I don’t expect the outcome to be any different with the Inheritance Tax.
It is difficult for me to properly communicate the insanity of what is happening here, but I have done the best I can with this blogpost. The bottom line is that there is NO “Citizens’ Revolution.” That whole concept is a slick PR farce, much like the con-game Correa pulled when he was selling off Yasuni to the Chinese, while still asking the world for donations to a fund which would keep that oil in the ground.
All this of course, after having previously “enshrined the rights of nature in the Constitution” – remember! Tell that to the indigenous peoples fighting the Chinese and others on their ancestral lands. This kind of modus-operandi is Correa’s (and any slick huckster’s) trademark … looky over here … while something quite the opposite is going on over there. 😦
All that now exists … is the feeding of the giant insatiable Alianza-Pais vampire-squid, an enormous black-hole Death-Star, sucking citizens’ cash towards it with relentless force … which then consolidates that power and money to kill Ecuador by way of the death of a thousand cuts.
And now, with the “installation” of Moreno … the nightmare will most assuredly continue. All the long-embedded Alianza-Pais parasites chupando en la teta (sucking on the teat) now get to stay exactly where they are … and many more will soon join them. That’s how they roll. This is how a country dies. 😦
It’s hard to say at this stage whether Ecuador will indeed go “full retard” and join Venezuela in the madhouse, but the signs are not good. Next to Venezuela, Ecuador has recently been the worst performing economy in the region … and every indicator, in terms of government policy to date, and that which is apparently forthcoming, now Moreno has the reins … does not augur well.
Having travelled to Peru fairly often, we know that significant numbers of savvy Ecuadorians have moved large amounts of capital to Peru, have set up “Plan B” style businesses in Peru, and are ready to skip across the border and activate those plans the first hint they get of things getting “sticky” here in Ecuador. These preparations are not recent … they have been ongoing for as long as three years in some cases.
Additionally, I know several people who work in cooperatives and financial institutions and their customers have taken immediate action. Since Moreno was “elected,” capital has been hemorrhaging out of Ecuador across borders … Ecuadorians are even sucking up the 5% exit tax, and just getting their money OUT. Most of the Ecuadorian capital is going to Peru (this, despite the perilous situation which Peru is currently suffering because of once in a lifetime flooding). These people are realists … they know what is going on … they have seen it all before.
As I said before, the purpose of this article is to inform, and educate, on the basis of my nearly decade on the ground here, watching the Correa government in action. Some of you may be wondering why I’ve decided to speak out … why write this blogpost, when the risks of outright persecution are as they are? Well, the answer is that I’ve come to the sad conclusion I don’t have much left to lose here in Ecuador. Anyone who knows me, certainly knows it hasn’t been for lack of trying!
Meanwhile, perhaps this article will help others make some intelligent and beneficial decisions which might save them time, money or pain. Fundamentally, it has never been my nature to censor myself, especially when things urgently need to be said, and truths need to be known. Otherwise, what does one have left? 😦
Everything I’ve experienced here, makes me certain that Ecuador’s by now enormous problems … are extremely unlikely to be solved by the same “Alianza-Pais consciousness” which created them.
Ecuador’s people, its military, and its police … need to wake up, and do the honorable (and sensible) thing … reject the cancer and the fraudulent election result, and start again.
Maybe then, Ecuador won’t fall over the edge of the cliff and end up like Venezuela … in what is effectively now, an ongoing civil war.
Maybe an immense amount of suffering, conflict and death could be avoided.
But right now, it doesn’t seem likely.
Good luck everybody.
P.S. Some good news arrived today (27th April 2017), by way of Moreno conceding many of the points made in this article … maybe he will do something better than Correa after all. Time will tell.
3rd May 2017 – Update – more promising news regarding Moreno’s apparent awareness of how dire things are for business and real-estate.
29th May 2017 – Update – more promising news regarding the potential direction of the new government. Things like this need to happen quickly and effectively if Ecuador is to avoid the iceberg of collapse.
30th May 2017 – Organising another 2 BILLION dollars of new debt within your first few days in power is hardly confidence inspiring. 😦 (Article is in Spanish.)
12th June 2017 – Let’s hope the figures and initiatives in this article are real, and that the Ecuadorian government really DOES want to make it easier to export, and for business to be done generally.
2nd July 2017 – Ecuador, under Alianza-Pais – one step forward and half a dozen backwards. 😦
5th July 2017 – “His brief presence in office thus far suggests a willing disposition to address some of these problems, but the real test will come when more difficult decisions need to be made.”
6th July 2017 – Sometimes, it can be tough letting go. For Correa, it seems to be almost impossible. This policy of engagement from Moreno seems promising. We will soon see whether it yields any concrete results or not. Tick-tock …..
12th July 2017 – Let’s just hope Moreno keeps “widening that gulf” with Correa … it is about the only hope that Ecuador has, to bounce back from incalculable damage. And the idea of Correa returning in four years? Well that would be a true nightmare. 😦
13th July 2017 – Cutting costs for Ecuador businesses? Helping the private sector flourish? Better hurry up with that, “working on a plan,” guys & girls! Time’s a wasting! Tick-tock …
20th July 2017 – Is anyone surprised? It will become increasingly apparent just how dire Ecuador’s financial situation is … as time goes by. Correa damned this country to generations of debt, whilst simultaneously crippling its ability to generate income and productivity in order to have a chance of paying it down.
26th July 2017 – Moreno is starting to wake up to the nature and scale of the massive disasters perpetrated by Correa (they chime precisely with what has been covered herein). But will enough be done, soon enough, to arrest what is now nearly a five year slide into the abyss? After all, these items are just a very small piece of the overall catastrophe … as described by this article.
28th July 2017 – Anyone who’s genuinely following the machinations of the Ecuadorian economy KNOWS things are disturbing, but I still wonder just how bad they really are?
28th July 2017 – Here an Ecuadorian congresswoman lays bare some of the extreme illegality and lack of ethics which permeated everything to do with Correa and Alianza-Pais, both during their rule (and during the so-called “election”).
29th July 2017 – If this is what Moreno is saying publicly, one can only imagine how bad it really is … and how big a migraine he really has. The points I originally made in this article continue to be vindicated in spades.
2nd August 2017 – As discussed in my article at length, the corruption, and anti-democratic issues such as the lack of separation of powers within Correa’s Alianza-Pais government … was simply off the charts. “Moreno needs to continue to root out corruption in the government once the vice president is gone. Checks and balances must be restored so that justice operates independently from the will of other branches of government.”
2nd August 2017 – Correa continues lying from the other side of the world, whilst the corruption-ridden VP, Glas, decides that his being investigated for corruption equates to Moreno “abandoning the political principles established by former president Rafael Correa.” Yep … you got that right fella … that’s kind of the point!
3rd August 2017 – Finally! Glas is stripped of responsibilities/powers as VP. Moreno starts taking the fight to the corrupt Correistas. A welcome step in the right direction. 🙂
4th August 2017 – “In testimony presented to Brazilian prosecutors, the Odebrecht official who paid bribes to dozens of Ecuadorian government officials and business contractors, says he transferred $14.1 million to Vice President Jorge Glas.“
14th August 2017 – “The closer you get to the truth, the more nervous the guilty ones become.” – Moreno.
16th August 2017 – Moreno is discovering that every rock he turns over has unparalleled filth and corruption underneath it. When will he go after the big dog, Correa, I wonder? And surely (even moreso with this!), it’s just a matter of time before Glas is in prison-stripes?
16th August 2017 – Whilst David Morrell here laments the apparent inevitability of Rafael Correa becoming widely perceived as a tragi-comic and increasingly irrelevant blusterer … I personally can’t think of a more fitting demise for someone who has been so full of themselves, for so long … to the detriment of so so many.
21st August 2017 – Despite the fact Moreno doesn’t seem to appreciate yet, the range and urgency of the things he has to do RIGHT NOW to turn Ecuador’s disastrous economy around (particularly for small-to-medium enterprise), the good news is that meanwhile, he is almost effortlessly making Correa look like the lying venal thin-skinned idiot he most certainly is … and is getting popular while doing it. Anything which makes it increasingly unlikely for Correa to EVER be able to credibly return to Ecuadorian politics … is a very good thing indeed.
29th August 2017 – Things continue to SOUND promising under Moreno … let’s see if the actions eventually match the rhetoric. “We don’t care who they are, if they have violated the law and the public trust, we will find and punish them,” Moreno said.
4th September 2017 – It will be interesting to see whether Moreno can ultimately triumph against the entrenched Correistas within Alianza-Pais, because it is looking more and more like all-out conflict is unavoidable. I very much hope so … the future of Ecuador depends on these corrupt and brainwashed fools being utterly vanquished. Correa must never be able to return to inflict more damage.
16th September 2017 – As the pressure hots up within the AP party (and between Moreno and Correa specifically), events take a turn firmly into “weird and sketchy” territory. “An investigation is underway following the discovery Thursday of a hidden camera and microphone in the office of President Lenin Moreno.”
18th September 2017 – Yet another serious roadblock to success for Ecuador – eliminating or reducing the “exit tax” on funds leaving the country – (previously mentioned in this article), is finally being discussed. Too little, too late I’m afraid … progress is mind-numbingly slow. Sadly, Moreno’s government is still all talk no action. Nothing is really being done as yet. Why am I not surprised? 😦
20th September 2017 – Moreno will win this referendum on reversing a variety of Correa-era policies. Hopefully that will then make serious change possible within the recalcitrant (and still partially Correista) Alianza-Pais party. Get on board, or get off the boat.
23rd September 2017 – I hope Carlos Espinosa is correct. “Despite Correa’s sound and fury, says Espinosa, Moreno is in clear control of Correa’s future as well as Ecuador’s. “Within a matter of months, the voters will end forever Correa’s dream of returning to the presidency,” he says, referring to the public referendum Moreno plans to call. “Besides rejecting the indefinite reelection of the president, they will also undo some of the cornerstones of Correa’s plan for big government.”
29th September 2017 – Good to see Moreno standing firm to ensure the monster, Correa, can hopefully never (ever!) return to power. Enough is enough … if Correa returns, Ecuador is as good as dead. Slowly, it seems, people are starting to wake up to the scale of the plunder wrought during the last decade of destruction.
1st October 2017 – Goodbye Glas! With any luck the remaining Alianza-Pais factions will completely fracture and dissolve sometime in the near future. “Within the past week, new information in the Odebrecht corruption scandal forced Glas to admit he had more interaction with his uncle, Ricardo Rivera, than he had previously admitted. Rivera, who owns a satellite television company, is under house arrest in Guayaquil for allegedly taking more than $13 million in bribes.”
2nd October 2017 – Glas ordered to jail (pre-trial detention). I cannot even begin to describe how satisfying it is to see this. The only way it could be better is if the world’s biggest loudmouth, Correa, was in there making number-plates with him. Oh well … small steps! “Baca told Jurado on Monday morning that new evidence tying Glas to millions of dollars in bribe money received by his uncle, Ricardo Rivera, justified the jailing.“
5th October 2017 – Progress. Finally! “In a discussion with journalists of Wednesday, President Lenin Moreno agreed that high capital gains taxes are hurting construction starts and real estate sales. “The economy is struggling and repealing the law is one way to help increase investment and revive employment. This was an ill-advised, abusive law that should never have been enacted.””
9th October 2017 – It’s a pity Moreno has had to bother with this referendum (and waste all the time which should have otherwise been spent actioning many important things), but he needs this referendum result as a “big stick” to beat down the diehard Correistas and hopefully kill them off altogether. But at this stage it looks to have been a savvy move, and he now has broad cross-partisan support for it. Correa’s not quite dead and buried yet, but we’re nearly there now. 🙂
10th October 2017 – Almost without question, there is a very deep rabbit-hole to follow in respect of pay-offs to Correistas from the Chinese. Watch this space. “Suspicions about potential CWE bribes were raised when Odebrecht director José Conceição Santos testified in August that Vice President Jorge Glas demanded a personal payment of one percent of the value of all contracts that he was responsible for.”
11th October 2017 – Moreno making all the right moves. “At the cordial two-hour meeting in July, Moreno promised a new era of press freedom and urged his guests to embrace their watchdog function by investigating government corruption. He ended by declaring that the meeting would be “the first of many open dialogues with you.“
17th October 2017 – I just can’t stop laughing! “Glas also claimed that he is the victim of “media lynching,” blaming newspapers and television stations of spreading false information. “Because of a conspiracy by the press, I have not been able to defend myself,” he said.” The irony is off the charts! I guess it’s not so much fun when you don’t control the media at the barrel of a gun anymore.
20th October 2017 – Glimmers of hope? “The last three or four years have been terrible for anyone involved in the construction business,” he says. “I’m not just talking about builders like me but also for laborers, craftsmen, construction materials merchants, and real estate sellers. Today, we are seeing the first signs of a recovery.”
23rd October 2017 – Correista filth now levying death-threats against the prosecutor who is relentlessly bringing their dirty deeds to light. Is anyone surprised? 😦 “We are watching every step you take Diana and will eliminate you if you continue to pursue your cases.”
24th October 2017 – Moreno continues to undo autocratic damage wrought by Correa. “President Lenin Moreno signed two presidential decrees on Monday, ending requirements imposed by former president Rafael Correa on non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. Moreno said the old policies put unnecessary restrictions on private organizations and violated constitutional rights.”
29th October 2017 – The inevitable happens. Alianza Pais splits into two factions … pro-Correa and pro-Moreno. With any luck the Correistas will be buried very very quickly! “There is even a name for the AP faction aligned with Moreno, Salgado said. “We are the Assemblistas Monticristi (AM) because we firmly believe in the original intent and purpose of the 2008 constitution that was drafted in Monticristi,” she said. “We believe in a democracy that turns to the people on important questions of governance. We do not believe in a government that usurps power from the people simply for the purpose of building a more powerful government.”
2nd November 2017 – I just can’t stop laughing! Correa just doesn’t get it. I wonder if he ever will? Moreno has played this whole thing like some kind of Jedi-master. “An attempt by officers of Alianza País to align the political party with former president Rafael Correa has apparently backfired, solidifying President Lenin Moreno’s support both in and outside the party.” 🙂
6th November 2017 – Absurd … is absolutely correct. Glas’s salary should obviously have been at the very least suspended, the moment he was remanded in custody. “It is absurd that he should be collecting a paycheck,” says Alonso López, director of UP. “Not only is he not working for the people of Ecuador, but the evidence suggests he has also received large payments in bribes.”
14th November 2017 – The trash looks like it is finally getting taken out. The big cheese however, remains overseas. He may be well advised to quit the blustering bravado, stay there, and hope no extradition process is possible. “National Court Judge Miguel Jurado said Tuesday that Vice President Jorge Glas played a central role in Ecuador’s Odebrecht bribery scandal. His comments came in a final hearing in which he officially ordered Glas and 12 others to stand trial for illicit association and receiving bribes.”
25th November 2017 – The nightmare escalates, as Correa flew back into Ecuador today. The gall of this guy is literally without limits. He actually blamed Moreno for the “economic paralysis” (a paralysis which has, by the way, been gripping the country since early 2013!). “Let’s get back to our (leftist) roots, back to the streets” to restore the movement, Correa said while describing Moreno’s six months in power as a regression only too clearly seen in the country’s “economic paralysis.” Unbelievable. I wonder what happens next.
2nd December 2017 – It was of course disappointing (and more than just a little questionable!) that Correa was not immediately arrested by Moreno and thrown in the slammer next to Glas, but “family commitments” can reasonably be translated as “failed coup – failed mission.” Well, I guess we take what we can get in these uncertain times.
14th December 2017 – Ahhhh, it’s a beautiful thing … it must be Christmas! “A three-judge National Court of Justice tribunal has sentenced Vice President Jorge Glas to six years in prison for his role in the Odebrecht corruption scandal. The sentence, announced just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, is the maximum penalty for the crime of illicit association.”
18th December 2017 – And so it begins. Impeachment of Glas. At this point one can only wonder why Correa was permitted to flee. “Ecuador’s National Assembly has taken the first step to begin an impeachment trial for Vice President Jorge Glas. On Wednesday, Glas was convicted of corruption by the National Court and sentenced to six years in prison. Other charges against him are pending.“
22nd December 2017 – More good news. “Two courts rule against Glas, One rejected sentence-appeal, while another allowed impeachment to proceed.“
28th December 2017 – People are getting justifiably impatient, and increasingly cynical, about the likelihood of Moreno’s government making any real changes which are likely to rescue Ecuador from the economic death-spiral it’s been in since early 2013. “We expected much more after the dialogue sessions in the early months of the new government,” Aspiazu said. “Unfortunately, what we have seen in most cases is a continuation of the failed policies of Correa regime, many of them carried by the same people who worked for that regime.”
8th January 2018 – Correa returns to Ecuador YET AGAIN to “fight the emerging dictatorship of Moreno.” I can barely stop laughing … somebody help me! As if that’s not enough, he is also complaining about a so-called “media-blackout” against the No campaign. Someone should spend a day teaching him the meaning of the word IRONY. 😉
12th January 2018 – Preventing the criminal, Correa, from leaving the country, should be a total no-brainer. I am not exactly sure why Moreno is treating him with kid-gloves. He should have been jailed as soon as his feet hit the tarmac last time he entered Ecuador. Who knows? Maybe Moreno thinks he’s playing a smarter game letting Correa publicly continue to make a fool and an even more obvious loser out of himself … the moth that eventually kills itself against the flame. But Correa belongs in jail … of that there is no doubt.
14th January 2018
“The Demonator” (as a good friend of mine refers to Correa) … is back “in-county” trying to drum up support for the No vote, such that he can one day return to rape and pillage Ecuador some more. Psychopath. Madman.
19th January 2018 – Well, we can only hope Moreno completely ignores the advice of this halfwit “professor of economics” Diego Garcia (who obviously lives hermetically sealed within an academic bubble of idiocy). “More of the same” is exactly the opposite of what is needed in order to bring Ecuador’s “death-spiral-economy” … back from the brink. WTF is wrong with these people? 😦
20th January 2018 – I wonder if Correa is edging ever-closer to jumping from the frying pan … into the fire. This could get interesting. The corruption during his reign was simply off the charts.
21st January 2018 – If the forthcoming referendum passes in its entirety, at least that means the dictator cannot return, to take power over this apparently hapless country once again. That has to count for something I guess. Meanwhile, Ecuador remains in a flat-spin, near the bottom of a death-spiral, economically speaking. The inaction on all fronts in this respect is notable, and pretty much unforgivable. It is also disappointing to note that the vast majority of Ecuadorians seem not to understand or appreciate the importance of Julian Assange’s contributions to the world in general … and the predictability of the current President’s response to that data. 😦
25th January 2018 – Let’s hope it all becomes too much for the precious little egomaniac, and that eventually he just runs away and dies somewhere in ignominy. Or … he just gets thrown in jail forever, here in Ecuador. Whatever. As long as something nasty happens to him … he certainly deserves far more than he could ever receive. “Ex-president Rafael Correa faces up to 150 law suits and more may be on the way.”
5th February 2018 – Moreno hails “resounding victory” for democracy, as Ecuadorians overwhelmingly vote YES on all 7 referendum questions. “Ecuador will no longer be a playground for corrupt officials who would take advantage of the public trust,” he said. “Neither will it tolerate politicians who want to stay in power forever.” With any luck, that’ll be loud and clear enough for the sociopathic narcissist, Correa … who apparently wasn’t overjoyed with the result, calling it a “corrupt, manipulated farce.” Poor baby! Hopefully now, he will disappear into obscurity. Quite frankly I think he can count himself lucky he wasn’t killed during his visit here. Run along Rafa, run along now. #FueraCorreaFuera
13th February 2018 – Hilarious. And very very sad. Let’s go another $2.5B into debt. Yet another indicator that the massive debt wrought by the Correa era of Death, Destruction and Theft … is going to take a very very long time to clean up. If I was Moreno, I would be absolutely FURIOUS with Correa. Why Correa has not yet been jailed, is a very curious question indeed. He must have some kind of ace up his sleeve yet … to have avoided detention whilst here in Ecuador. 😦
26th March 2018 – Mind-boggling! The more time that goes by, the more the sheer scale of the corruption, theft, and destruction of Correa’s regime … becomes apparent. This report puts misappropriated funds at somewhere in the region of $35 Billion USD.
27th March 2018 – And here we go again … the inevitable result of the theft and corruption mentioned above. Ecuador must go back to the international bond markets to get itself another $5 Billion in debt. I don’t know where this is going to end (and neither do the desperadoes in charge). But nowhere good, that is for sure. This situation for Ecuador is not getting better … it is getting worse. There have still been no concrete changes to improve the economy in Ecuador, since Moreno took charge. Going into more massive debt, without freeing up the economy to function better … can not, and will not end well.
4th April 2018 – A good acknowledgment here of the incalculable damage wrought during Correa’s reign, in respect of freedom of speech and media freedom generally. To his credit, Moreno is repairing some of that damage, but there is still a very long way to go.
6th April 2018 – Signs of life, finally, in the construction sector, which (along with the real-estate sector), could not have been more effectively sabotaged by the Correa government if they had actually sat down and planned it. The stupidity of what was done to these two sectors from late 2012 really should be studied and analysed in economics textbooks moving forward. To witness it firsthand, destroy twinned industries I knew very well, was quite something. 😦
20th April 2018 – Everyone now knows that literally billions of dollars were misappropriated/stolen during the Correa regime. Finally, it looks like he may no longer be able to bluff and bluster his way beyond these corrupt truths. This video (in Spanish) is not pulling many punches. Correa deserves to be in jail, for unparalleled corruption, and effectively for betraying the people of Ecuador. Commander in Chief? More like Traitor and Thief. 😦
15th May 2018 – Signs of Economic Life? – Maybe … but Moreno is, generally speaking, moving like a tortoise. “President Lenin Moreno has appointed Richard Martínez as Ecuador’s new finance minister, replacing Maria Elsa Viteri. The move was not unexpected as Viteri has faced increasing criticism in recent weeks for maintaining the economic policies of former president Rafael Correa.”
25th May 2018 – Signs of Economic Life? “President Lenin Moreno told Ecuadorians Thursday that the country needs to open its doors to investors to revitalize the economy. In the first “state of the nation” report of his presidency, he outlined a series of tax incentives and policy changes he hopes will attract international and domestic investment.“