14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 February 2018 — “For the first time, I’m a Leninist,” a Cuban retiree said repeatedly and recklessly, standing in line for the newspaper. Around him some responded with a complicit smile. A few hours before, the news of a story with profound significance for Cuba had arrived: the triumph of the ‘Yes’ vote last Sunday, in a 7-point referendum promoted by that other Lenin, the president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno.
During the last decade, Ecuador had become a recurring reference point for Cuba. The diplomatic closeness between Rafael Correa and Raúl Castro, the thousands of professionals who were sent to work in that geographically complex country, and the many other Cubans who made Ecuador a point of departure for migration to other places, brought both nations closer together.
Meanwhile, Cuba’s official press also played a hand with positive adjectives about a Citizen Revolution and presented Rafael Correa as an “eternal friend” who would always be there for Cuba, to close ranks against the “empire” of the North. The narrative ignored a key fact: the Andean nation was still a democracy and at some point, Correa, an economist with a PhD from an American university, would have to leave power.
The Cuban media controlled by the Communist Party, including the newspaper Granma, gave no space to critical information about the Ecuadorian president’s management of his country. Not even to question the terrible oil drilling agreement he signed with China that shorted the country 2.2 billion dollars for the anticipated sale of crude oil, according to data that have surfaced in an ongoing investigation.
Granma also remained silent on Correa’s attacks of arrogance, his lack of composure in dealing with political opponents, the judicial witch hunt he launched against the press that dared to criticize him, and the corruption plots that shook his government and have led to a six-year prison term for vice president Jorge Glas, for receiving bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.
After ten years in office, Correa concluded his second term and Havana reinforced its information strategy with regards to Ecuador. Lenin Moreno, Correa’s vice president, was presented as an extension of his predecessor, the docile heir of the designs of the true leader of the process who would respect the law barring him from three consecutive terms, and take a brief pause before returning triumphantly, after Moreno served one term as a ‘placeholder’.
That entire fantasy has been collapsing in recent months and was shattered this last Sunday. Moreno triumphed over the former president and his authoritarian model, cutting off the path the latter had laid for himself to return to the presidency, and, incidentally, sending a bitter message to Castroism at a time when Cuba’s so-called ‘historical generation’ is tying up the threads of succession politics.
There is no doubt, the resounding ‘Yes’ victory on all seven of the referendum’s questions is also a defeat for the Cuban regime. Ecuadorians who chose to reestablish firm term limits and support the political disqualification of those found guilty of corruption, among other topics voted on in the popular consultation, have taken a decision that transcends their own country and touches, in particular, on this island.
With Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva submerged in several legal processes, Bolivia’s Evo Morales facing an imminent crisis of sustainability, Kirchnerism going through its worst moment in Argentina, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro unable to buy support in exchange for oil, and a pathetic Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua making concessions to liberalism, the populist left has received another devastating blow in Ecuador. But this is a more effective hit because it comes from within.
After learning the results of the polls, Lenin Moreno called on his compatriots to build a country “happy, renewed, in peace and freedom.” That last word must have sounded in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution like a coup de grace.
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