Why Correa might give Snowden Asylum: All the Horrible things the US has done to Ecuador

Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who won a third term this year, has significantly improved the lives of his people, reducing poverty rates and building out infrastructure. Correa, an economist trained at the University of Illinois, has a nuanced view of the US, but he has had significant frictions with the behemoth of the North, which has often thrown its weight around on behalf of US corporate interests in the South American country. Correa complains of continual US push-back against policies that benefit the people, saying that Washington has been ‘Historically Antagonistic’ to progressive change in Latin America. Since most Americans can’t find Ecuador on the map and have no idea of the history of the US corporations with that country, we could review a few little blemishes on our record that might make Correa willing to offer asylum to US whistleblowers:

According to the Christian Science Monitor, an Ecuadoran court found Texas oil giant Texaco (now part of Chevron) guilty dumping “18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil” in the Amazon basin in the northeast of the country. It was found guilty of “polluting an estimated 1,700 square miles of rain forest – an area the size of Rhode Island.” Further legal proceedings are ongoing in the case, even in the US

h/t El Sueno de Bolivar

The US, in pursuing its wrong-headed “war on drugs,” set up an air force base in Ecuador, which President Rafael Correa became convinced was also an intelligence operation. He closed the base in 2009. The “war on drugs” appears to have been a policy lobbied for by US pharmaceutical and liquor corporations, which artificially raised the price of other recreational drugs and created black markets and criminal cartels to fill the demand, ravaging much of Latin America.

US and other banks had indebted Ecuador to the tune of over $3 billion. President Rafael Correa argued that much of this debt was “odious,” contracted by corrupt governments and given under unfair terms, and he managed to have half that sum revoked.

The State Department, in cahoots with US pharmaceutical corporations, actively lobbied to undermine Correa’s policy of improving public access to medicines and reducing drug costs.

US banana corporations in Ecuador have a long history of paying labor badly, interfering in attempts at labor organization, and requiring long work days.

27 Responses

  1. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Eduardo Galleano was the book Hugo Chavez gave to the new President Obama when they first met. It is a horrendous history of abuse of the people of Ecuador and the rest of Latin America by the United States and European nations operating unregulated, thus abusive, capitalist systems. If Obama read the book, highly unlikely, it obviously didn’t dissuade him from his plan to cooperate with our nation’s plutocrats.

    • I think he thought it was an “owner’s manual” or “how-to,” not a litany of prolonged evil for the benefit of the Tainted Few…

      You can bet the generals and jackals who feed at the trough of Coca-Colonialism, who don’t have the integrity of one (here you go, Bill, 3×5 INCOMING! Counter-battery fire!) Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler who told it like it really is, without the fake “patriotic-exceptional” bunting and fireworks, know just how to move the levers and where to stick the blades…

    • “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,” by Eduardo Galleano, has some good points to make regarding the exploitation of Latin America by the developed world. (And now China has been getting into the act as well!) Nevertheless, Galleano’s book is a wholly one-sided approach to why Latin America has failed to develop. To read his book, one would be left with the impression that Latin America’s traditional underdevelopment was completely the product of the West’s exploitative practices. It is not.

      For a more balanced approach to why Latin America has failed to develop, I recommend the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, particularly his two seminal works, “The Mystery of Capital,” and “The Other Path,” as well as some of his monographs. Hernando de Soto does not deny the exploitation of Latin America by the developed world, including the United States, but he presents a far more nuanced view than does Galleano. He details with myriad examples the stifling bureaucracy and corruption that has been endemic in Latin America and has led to inefficiency and economic waste. De Soto provides examples of the labyrinthine steps that are required to obtain business licenses, and the payoffs and bribes that are required in order to receive them, in effect, locking the poor completely out of the banking and credit system, since they lack even the tiniest bit of collateral needed for loans to start up small enterprises.

      De Soto outlines the tax avoidance that passes for sport in much of Latin America, depriving the state of much needed revenue that could by used to enhance education and public services. Instead, the shortfall in revenue through massive tax avoidance is made up, often enough, by printing money, leading to hyperinflation, as has occurred in Argentina, Bolivia, and other countries.

      Historically Latin America has been exploited by outside powers, but it has been equally responsible for its lack of development through its own culture of corruption and inefficient use of human capital. The pity in a book like Galleano’s is that it confirms in many Latin Americans (and others, I might say) that all their problems are due to external forces, thus absolving them of all responsibility for their condition and diverting them from making those institutional changes that are necessary for a modern, efficient political and economic system. There are signs of changes. Chile has long been a leading light, and Mexico and Peru are improving as well. But others have a long way to go.

      • The cool thing, Bill, is that almost all the points you highlight as reasons why the other Americas have not ‘developed’ (I guess that means “looking more like US”) sure seem to apply to what’s going on in the good old USA. Tax avoidance as a sport? Looks like. And I would consider the inroads and perversions of post-national and trans- and super-national corporations that drive so much “policy” and the flow of money, not to mention one Herewegoagainistania after another, to be an “external force” being exerted by outside powers to exploit the labors and ingenuity of the working engine of the population.

        What would YOU approve of as constituting “a modern, efficient political and economic system?” Germany? France? The US? You applaud the neoliberals wherever they breed, like Chile, but those folks there and here could care less about the huge mass of humans with their sad little lives, working long hours for pittance pay under oppressive conditions and paying ever more (even beyond the feared HYPERINFLATION!) for necessities as the rentier class figures out where the self-ignition point of popular revolt is,and prices everything right to the fine limit.

        A little bit of blaming the victim might be warranted. Not what is in your post and the sources you turn to, though. It’s hard to go up against unfettered death squads and those uniformed fellas and sneaky petes trained up at the School of the Americas and more covert campuses… not to mention the jackals. I’m sure you have just a withering critique of the writings of John Perkins, like “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” link to amazon.com, and “The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World,” link to amazon.com

        Stop breaking it, and you won’t have to fix it.

        • “You applaud the neoliberals wherever they breed, like Chile, but those folks there and here could care less about the huge mass of humans with their sad little lives.”

          If you actually looked at a country like Chile, Mr. McPhee, you would see that it has a much greater middle class and prospering population than those countries that continue with their shopworn collectivist economies like Bolivia, Venezuela, cuba, Nicaragua, and even Argentina. Drop the scales from your eyes, and ye shall see.

      • Huh. So there’s a traditional culture of corruption and inefficiency in Latin America, is there? And there’s a traditional power elite consisting of lighter-skinned oligarchs dating back to Spanish and Portuguese rule, right? Now what was their relationship to us capitalists?

        The scam you’re pulling, Bill, is that Western capitalists were partners of that oligarchy in their crimes, both in the old banana republic era and in the neoliberal era inaugurated by Pinochet. So it’s not a matter of Latin Americans looking for outsiders to blame, but one group of Latin Americans oppressing and murdering a much larger group of Latin Americans with Wall Street support. But you switch out the pronouns, so as to imply that 50% of the blame lies with lazy, socialistic Latin Americans, i.e., the poor.

        DeSoto is just Friedman-Pinochet Mark II. New “entrepreneurs” can become fascists too, like the greedbags who fill up the ranks of America’s Christian Right and Tea Party, owning businesses enabled by white-flight exurbanism and despising the people left behind in the city.

        • Have you actually read Hernando de Soto, SUPER390? Or are you just exercising your kneejerk “blame everything on external forces” mantra? I have actually lived in Latin America and know something about it from first-hand experience. Have you experienced Chile first-hand? Or Nicaragua? Or Honduras? Or anything else upon which you have formed such concrete opinions? I wonder if you actually know anything about Hernando de Soto, SUPER 390? For that matter, have you have actually read “Open Veins of Latin America,” by Eduardo Galleano? Or do you form your opinions second-hand by what you hear others have read and experienced?

    • Bill pulling out the worst and oldest defence of a lame argument…being, ‘well, I’ve lived, know, have experienced, etc, ************(fill in appropriate name) therefor my argument tops yours. Sad, sad, sad.

      • There is a lot to be gained by actually living in and experiencing life in the area under discussion, Origen. People can talk a country to death in the abstract, but to have actually experienced the people and society provides valuable first-hand information. That, plus reading the works of Hernando de Soto I mentioned, provides a completely different take on Latin America than has been presented in this thread.

        • “Latin America” is a pretty big place to be claiming to have the “correct” understanding of and handle on. One might wonder which of the posited binary takes on that continent and a half partake more of reality and less of polemics and apologist’s re-writes… Living WHERE in Latin America, and hanging around with what kind of people? Graduates of universities, or graduates of the School of the Americas? Or some other claim to more correct authentic complete knowledge? De Soto, surprisingly enough, has numerous critics, that include observations that his remedies for inequality and “fixing” national economies are, shall we say, simplistic?

        • “De Soto, surprisingly enough, has numerous critics, that include observations that his remedies for inequality and “fixing” national economies are, shall we say, simplistic?”

          It would help to have actually read Hernando de Soto’s works, rather than rely on flimsy Wiki quotes without context.

    • “Central role in the international drug trade?” I don’t see where that statement can be wrung out of the article cited, which is a puff piece unfettered by research links for an outfit seeking more money to ‘fight drugs’.

      On the other hand, Ecuador is one of “those little countries down there” that have taken multiple poundings from the Northern Colossus:

      Ecuador had traditionally perceived drug policy as one prioritising a public health approach as opposed to law enforcement. For example the 1970 Law of Control and Intervention in the Trafficking of Narcotics emphasised the public health aspects of drug use, declaring that anyone found under the influence of drugs was to be taken directly to a hospital where it was to be determined if they were drug dependent [1]. If indeed they were classified as dependent, they underwent a rehabilitation programme under the supervision of medical personnel. Furthermore, the Plan Nacional de Prevención del Uso Indebido de Drogas (National Plan for the Prevention of Improper Drug Use) even stated the negative effects of placing too much emphasis on criminalising drug users instead of treating them as a health issue [2].

      However, as the UN Drug Conventions adopted more of a prohibitionist tone, Ecuador was forced to follow suit by international pressure and lobbying. Beginning at the end of the 1980s, Ecuadorean drug policy began to give law enforcement a greater role in drug policy; for example the 1987 ‘Law of Control and Intervention in the Trafficking of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances’ implemented harsh penalties for those convicted of drug offences, including imprisonment of between 12 and 16 years for producing or trafficking certain substances [1].

      Under great pressure from the US, Ley 108, the country’s ‘Law on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances’, was approved in 1991. This law was not developed with any regard for domestic realities, but instead to gain significant US aid; the Ecuadorian government was forced to implement this law, which according to one scholar is an extremely punitive law, entailing sentences disproportionate to the offense, contradicting due process guarantees, and violating the constitutional rights of the accused [1]. Focusing on enforcement, drug policy efficacy was measured according to how many citizens were imprisoned on drug charges. [Gee, does any of that sound familiar?]

      The primary result of this has been the mass overcrowding and worsening conditions of prisons. For example, in 2007, 34% of those incarcerated were for drug offences (45% if one just examines the statistics for urban prisons) [1]. Furthermore, the weight of these laws falls disproportionately on the poor, who often engage in small-scale drug dealing for lack of employment opportunities and tend to be the target of police actions, rather than the criminal networks that run the drug trade

      – See more at: link to reformdrugpolicy.com

      And of course here’s one bit what gets done in our name, in those “little foreign countries”:

      link to williamblum.org

      Google “us intervention in ecuador” for LOTS more.

      That scary submarine? Not a lot of detail available, but likely not built by any “Ecuadorian cartel.” link to articles.latimes.com I hear Swedish or German engineers were involved. Or maybe Spanish, or Russian. Or some MIT guy thinking the pay at Electric Boat is not high enough. Anything for a buck, right?

      Here’s some fun details of this part of the Great Game: link to combatreform.org

      Too bad feeding our US-an appetites is killing the whole planet and its little cultures…

  2. Whichever country gives him refuge, will in all liklihood be subject to tightening thumbscrews. I hope it is someone who can pushback -not a small easily isolatable place.

    • Given the difficulty that non-Communist Latin American countries have with preventing people from getting kidnapped for money, I agree that this is not a good place for him to go.

  3. Professor Cole, you seem to have forgotten the attempted coup against Correa, which the US was believed to have fomented:

    The president was roughed up and sprayed with tear gas, and eventually fled to a hospital. Police officers across the country soon took over their barracks. Highways were blocked by burning tires, schools were shut down, and many businesses closed.

    The assistance rendered to Snowden by these countries amounts to an insurrection against US authority. Considering that Der Spiegel has been been fulminating against the soft totalitarianism of the US, it’s pretty clear the US has irritated just about everyone.

  4. Ecuador may have played a central role in drug trade, but in history the biggest drug warlord, was the British Raj that even gone to war with china to make every Chinese a drug addict, & made India biggest opium producing country at the time.

    British even asked China to compensate for the opium that China has confiscated & destroyed.

  5. Why the west does not like if any third world leader wants to do good for its people. West shouts democracy, democracy but does not like democracy in 3rd world countries either.

    Chili’s democratically elected government was over thrown in 1973.
    Guatemala’s democratically elected government was over thrown in 1953 so was Iran saw same fate same year.

    Patrice Lumumba’s plane was mysteriously shot down. Mubutu was supported for next 30 years. All the dictators were supported by the US, around the globe in the last 60 years, including Sadam Husain at one time.

    Late Chaves of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia & Rafael Correa of Ecuador are not in good books of USA since all three trying to do good for the poor of their countries.

  6. Correa also studied economics in England. It is people like Chavez, Morales and Correa who have dared stand up to the corrupt, war mongering, fear mongering, blackmailing USA – and clearly demonstrated that life without the US is possible and in a much more civilized way. Yes, corruption is a major problem but not exclusively to Latin/South America. The US has always supported dictators and despots while, hypocritically, claiming, to be all in favour of democracy…at the end of a gun barrel.

    • Cheerful corruption is endemic in the good old US of A, too. All you have to do is live in just about any city or town and spend some time learning about contracting and zoning and permitting and annexation and lately the “race to the bottom” that’s the “efforts to attract business relocations” to “bring jobs” out of one US locale to another, which are paid for with excuses from taxes and environmental regulations, gifts of public property, condemnation of private property and the rest of the scams including plain old bribery.

      Having been personally solicited by several police officers and public officials over the years for little mordidas (like the “$20 handshake” to ensure timely recordation of Torrens land titles in Chicago and so many others) I will offer my little experience and observation that corruption thrives here, including PA judges who railroad kids into jails in exchange for cash, and of course all the SOBs who get away with financial murder and the theft of people’s homes and livelihoods…

      A certain amount of what I’d call “slack” is inevitable, even necessary, but we here are way beyond a “genteel sufficiency” of it.

  7. Well, Mr Snowden has original ideas about what constitutes a sanctuary. At the least, Ecuador and Hong Kong are a far cry from Switzerland.

    link to freedomhouse.org

    More at the site. But I suppose the U.S. made them do it, as Flip Wilson used to say.

  8. I recommend John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hit-Man”. Perkins was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador who went on the work for US intelligence services. His job was to get Latin American nations to borrow beyond their means and become debt peons beholden to the United States. Those that refused (Pres. Torrijos of Panama, Roldos of Ecuador) were simply killed under Reagan.

    Perkins’ book is a great insider account of what goes on behind the scenes of the US’ obsession with “freedom and democracy.”

    • One wonders if that silly little Perkins book was on Bill’s reading list, and what his critique of it might be. I thought it was pretty compelling, myself.

      I had an older friend who was a partner at one of the defunct Big Eight accounting firms (Arthur Anderson). He left the firm on learning of the degree of corruption that it was engaging in with Continental Bank, as part of the fraudulent “due diligence” ratings on US-backed “loans” being made by Continental and other US banks, at the urging of our State Department and CIA, to various South and Central American oligarchies.

      Again, the purposes of the loans were to get the borrower state in way over its head, with the US taxpayer on the hook to make good the loans that patently were pre-defaulted, providing, of course, risk-free returns to the banks.

      The “banking officers” who cut these deals had a little “moral hazard,” their compensation being a percentage of the amount loaned, and they of course were feted and “favored by senoritas” and given the best cigars and “drogas” by the host country. Leading to the kinds of leverage that Our Government so dearly loves to be able to apply, in pursuit of hegemony and profit for corporations.

      Bill probably discounts Howard Zinn as a “serious responsible historian,” but here are a few observations Professor Zinn made, not so long ago, about bits of the Great Game as played by “Americans:” link to news.rapgenius.com

      “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” link to en.wikipedia.org

  9. You really need to add Walter LaFeber’s classic, Inevitable Revolutions, to the must read list of anyone wanting to get a handle on Latin America. Its focus is Central America, and it seems to have been written largely to shed light on events unfolding there under Reagan. But the pattern pertains elsewhere.

    Trouble with these others is they tend to be overly polemical. LaFeber’s must end-up making a thinking Americans feel equal parts ashamed and exasperated.

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