Ecuador’s Cuban Community is Involved in February 4th Referendum

At least 43,000 Cubans, many of them professionals, live in Ecuador. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 12 January 2018 — The division between correístas (supporters of former president Rafael Correa) and morenistas (supporters of current president Lenin Moreno) that runs through Ecuador, less than a month before the upcoming 7-issue referendum called by President Lenin Moreno is also reflected among Cubans residing in the country.

The polls maintain that the YES side, promoted by the current president who is asking voters to approve all seven measures, will win by a large majority, but among the Cubans consulted by 14ymedio opinions are not very clear.

“Among Cubans who reside here, there is a part of us who consider Moreno a traitor and would like to see the return of President Rafael Correa, but there is also a large group that wants change,” says Rolando Gallardo, one of the organizers of the National Alliance of Cubans in Ecuador, speaking from Quito.

The referendum called by the current president for Sunday, 4 February, includes five amendments to the constitution and seven proposals overall. Among these is the overturning the measure approved by the National Assembly at Correa’s request in 2015, which eliminated term limits for some offices, including that of president.

Among the other referendum measures are one to restructure the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control, one of the central powers of the State, and one that would bar from public office and confiscate the assets of those who commit corruption offenses.

Good news at the beginning of they ear: @MashiRafael [Correa] comes to Ecuador this week and stays all month to “burn shoe leather”, to “go back to the grassroots working door to door” to overcome the betrayal and say NO to the cheating and unconstitutional consultation. We shall overcome! – Ricardo Patiño (@RicardoPatinoEC) January 2, 2018 [Tweet from Correa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, now Minister of National Defense]

Gallardo, a graduate in History from the University of Havana, does not hesitate to affirm that Correa “did a lot” for Ecuador, and took advantage of the oil boom to develop the country’s infrastructure. However, he rejects Correa’s authoritarianism and believes that his return to public office would do “a lot of damage to Ecuadorian democracy.”

“Having no term limits is for countries with a high level of political education, and in a nation like Ecuador, where the political views of the masses are emotional and ephemeral, it is a danger,” he says.

Some 13 million voters over the age of 16 are eligible to participate in the referendum, including foreigners with five years of legal residence in the country. At least 43,000 Cubans, many of them professionals, live in Ecuador but it is not known how many have the right to vote. They arrived starting in 2008 when Correa’s Government established the policy of universal citizenship and eliminated the visa requirement for people coming from most countries, including Cuba.

I am going to my homeland on January 4, to be with my colleagues in this fight against treason and partyocracy,’ Ever onward to victory! – Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) January 2, 2018 [Tweet from Rafael Correa, who has been living in Belgium]

In 2015, Ecuador resumed the practice of requiring visas for Cuban citizens in response to the migration crisis that arose that year in Central America, when thousands of people left the island and headed to the United States by way of Quito, out of fear that the special migratory privileges enjoyed by Cubans under the US wet foot/dry foot policy would soon be terminated.

“Correa was the president who let us into this country and the one who cared most about Cubans. Ecuador was just a banana republic and ungovernable before he became president,” Jesus Curbelo says excitedly. Curbelo is a Cuban who has lived in Ecuador’s most populated city, Guayaquil, for five years.

“In Ecuador there is a lot of xenophobia, especially towards Cubans, because Ecuadorians believe that we have come to take away their jobs,” argues Curbelo, who graduated as a professor of mathematics on the island and who will vote against Lenin Moreno’s proposals.

“The social gains, the education and health programs that were achieved under Correa’s government will not be sustained if his legacy does not continue,” says Curbelo, who is close to the Association of Cuban Residents in Ecuador (ACURE), an organization sponsored by the Cuban Embassy in Quito.

Dr. Adrián Hernández Cruz, a Cuban living in Cuenca, believes that Moreno’s referendum provokes “sympathy among Cubans,” although he, personally, is not happy with the current president’s reforms.

Cubans entering Ecuador by year

“Lenin has maintained the same restrictions on Cubans as did the Correa government, such as the impossibility of achieving permanent legal status for many of those who came to Ecuador looking for work,” he explains. The doctor also distrusts the work of the Cuban ambassador, whom he accuses of interference in the internal affairs of the Andean country.

“Despite the fact that in the last few months there has been some opening to facilitate the process of legalization of immigrants, in the Cuban case the obstacles are maintained and, particularly in the case of professionals, they increase,” explains the doctor. “All this is just a political manipulation in order to gain popularity,” he says.

Michel Larrondo, another Cuban doctor who emigrated to Ecuador, believes that Correa supporters seek to “perpetuate themselves in power.”

“Even the former president came back from Belgium to campaign for the NO side,” he says. Although he is a supporter of the YES side, he regrets that the Cuban community “is apathetic in its great majority: many do not care about politics, it’s all the same to them whether it’s Correa or Moreno.”


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