US, OAS, Colombia try to steal Ecuador’s election from popular socialist candidate, while spreading fake news
The US State Department is pushing a politicized vote recount, overseen by the coup-sponsoring OAS, after socialist Andrés Arauz won Ecuador’s election in a landslide. Meanwhile Colombia’s ex-president warns his country’s “radical right” is “interfering” with “slander” and a “dirty game.”
by Ben Norton
Part 3 - Ecuador’s biased electoral council collaborates with losing candidates against leading leftist
While the Colombian government has openly meddled in Ecuador’s internal affairs, the US government and Organization of American States have been working more quietly behind the scenes to undermine the electoral victory of leftist Andrés Arauz.
On February 12, the same day Colombia’s chief prosecutor arrived in Quito, Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) held an unprecedented closed-door meeting between the second- and third-place presidential candidates.
In a blatant violation of Ecuadorian law, the CNE hosted a private event where the losing opposition candidates were encouraged to unite and brainstorm ways to effectively defeat the leftist Citizens’ Revolution movement represented by the first-place candidate.
According to the CNE’s official count, Arauz won 32.71 percent of the vote in the first round of the election. This put him a solid 13 percent points above the right-wing banker candidate Guillermo Lasso, who won 19.74 percent.
Because Arauz did not reach the 40 percent threshold needed for a first-round victory, under Ecuadorian law, Arauz and Lasso must compete in a run-off election on April 11.
But the third-place candidate, Yaku Pérez, a foreign-backed environmentalist from a US-trained political party, has prevented the second-round contest by introducing baseless accusations of fraud.
In his insistence on participating in the run-off, Pérez revealed the US embassy called him immediately after the election and reassured him he would participate in the second round.
The only problem for Pérez is he failed to win enough votes.
But the slow and gradual way in which Ecuador’s National Electoral Council published the results lent the false impression that Pérez had been in second place.
The CNE did not finalize the full results until February 11. Up until 99.80 percent of the precincts were tabulated, the tally consistently, for days, showed Pérez with a narrow lead over Lasso, in second place.
These misleading, incomplete results gave Pérez the ammunition he needed to claim his victory was stolen by fraud.
Many Ecuadorians have accused the top electoral body of bias. And the US-backed Lenín Moreno government has not even pretended to be neutral.
Under his repressive rule, Moreno purged any members of the CNE who were suspected of sympathies with Correismo and filled the top electoral council exclusively with opposition politicians from Yaku Pérez’s party Pachakutik and Lasso’s party, CREO.
On the day of the private CNE meeting between the second- and third-place candidates, the name Diana Atamaint was trending on Twitter in Ecuador. Why?
Because Atamaint, the president of the CNE, is an ally of Pérez, and a prominent member of his political party, Pachakutik — which was trained by the US government’s National Democratic Institute (NDI), a partner of Washington’s regime-change arm the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA cut-out.
Under Atamaint’s leadership, the CNE has become a blatantly politicized body. The electoral organ consistently acted to prevent the leftist Correistas from freely participating in the election.
First, the CNE blocked former President Correa, the most popular politician in the country, from running as vice president. It also banned the original political party of Andrés Arauz, forcing the leading candidate to find another, little-known party to run with.
As if those obstacles weren’t enough, the CNE subsequently forbade Arauz’s campaign from using images of Correa in its promotional materials.
Despite the many anti-democratic impediments, Arauz won first place in a landslide. Meanwhile, Yaku Pérez clearly came in third place, meaning he will not go to the run-off in April.
The potential of a second round between Andrés Arauz and Guillermo Lasso has worried many Ecuadorian opposition figures. Parts of the country’s elites have lost faith in Lasso, and fear he would not be able to defeat the Correistas in a second round.
Lasso is quite unpopular, and his extensive use of offshore bank accounts is widely known. Lasso’s image as a banker and one of the wealthiest people in Ecuador could help reinforce leftist Arauz’s platform and his promise to fight elite corruption, stop tax evasion, and seek economic justice for working people.
Lasso is particularly tainted by his role as economic minister during the 1999 financial crash that destroyed Ecuador’s economy, bankrupting millions. Lasso is also stained by his close ties to the extremely unpopular Lenín Moreno government, and was exposed for sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to Moreno himself.
In the previous two presidential elections, Lasso was the right-wing’s candidate, but he lost. In the 2021 election, sections of Ecuador’s elites and their foreign sponsors have clearly thrown their weight behind Yaku Pérez, seeing him as a Barack Obama-style candidate who could provide an alternate message and is more likely to defeat Arauz in the second round.
Pérez has leveraged this support to demand a recount that could help propel him to the presidential run-off. And the CNE is happily participating in his scheme, in flagrant violation of its own bylaws.
In his February 12 meeting at the CNE’s headquarters, which Pérez had publicly requested, the opposition candidate did not even pretend to be neutral and fair.
Pérez used the event as a platform to speak directly to Ecuador’s elites. He declared that his goal is “not only to pass to the second round, but to defeat Correismo.”
Lasso, on the other hand, used the opportunity at the CNE to make an impassioned public call for a broad anti-Correista alliance between the opposition candidates.
The historically unprecedented, closed-door meeting was just another example of how, under Ecuador’s US-backed President Moreno, the CNE has become a corrupt instrument of political control, committed not to overseeing free and fair elections, but rather to making sure that the socialist Citizens’ Revolution never returns to power.
Ecuadorian legal experts stressed that the private CNE meeting was illegal. Ismael Quintana, a professor of constitutional law and opposition supporter who is himself staunchly anti-Correista, acknowledged that Yaku Pérez forcing a recount in Ecuador “passed from being a possibly legitimate claim or doubt to a temper tantrum without legal basis.”
But the CNE’s clearly unlawful meeting was just one part of the body’s post-election actions to reverse Andrés Arauz’s overwhelming victory. Next, the electoral body approved a recount in areas in the country in which the opposition candidates lost.
The CNE declared its intention to recount 100 percent of votes in Guayas province, where Pérez had the worst results, as well as 50 percent of votes in other areas in which Pérez lost.
On February 13, Pérez met again privately with the CNE, and his formal recount request was granted. It stipulated that the process was expected to take a remarkable 15 days. This meant that the official results of the first round of Ecuador’s February 7 election would not be known until the end of the month, or perhaps early March.
With the CNE behind him, the third-place candidate also began to shift the narrative, claiming that, with the new count, Arauz could potentially fall from his resounding first-place victory to third, preventing the leftist from running in the second round of the presidential race.
“It would not be strange if Arauz fell to third place,” Pérez declared.
In reality, the only way Arauz could fall so far from his 13 percent lead would be through vote theft.
The credible fears of the opposition stealing votes was compounded by the announcement that the recount process would be overseen by the Organization of American States and its coup-sponsoring general secretary, Luis Almagro.
President Moreno met with Almagro in Washington, DC on January 27, less than two weeks before the presidential election. On the ssame trip, Moreno also held friendly meetings with US Senator Bob Menendez, a figure named as a key ally by Bolivia coup-plotters, as well as Joe Biden’s top Latin America policy advisor, Juan Sebastian Gonzalez.
Under Almagro, the OAS played a leading role in the military coup that overthrew Bolivia’s democratically elected government in November 2019. The OAS spread demonstrably false claims accusing President Evo Morales of fraud – accusations that are reminiscent of those made by Yaku Pérez today.
The Biden administration has praised the CNE for agreeing to the illegal and deeply politicized recount.
The acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Julie Chung, tweeted, “U.S. government applauds the February 12 announcement by [CNE] to verify votes in 17 provinces in Ecuador’s February 7 presidential election. This allows the electoral process to advance with enhanced guarantees to the candidates and citizens alike.”
Chung did not mention that these 17 provinces were chosen specifically because Pérez performed poorly in them.
The US State Department spokesperson continued to claim that the clearly illegal process demonstrated “transparency” and “ensures public confidence in results.”
Chung added, “We thank [OAS] election observation teams for their continuing work supporting democracy in [Ecuador].”
While the Biden administration cleared the way for electoral shenanigans, the OAS deployed Isabel de Saint Malo, the former vice president of Panama, as the head of the OAS observer team in the country.
De Saint Malo was a key figure in the joint US-OAS coup attempt targeting Venezuela’s leftist government. In many meetings at the Lima Group, de Saint Malo reiterated strong support for Washington-imposed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó, lionizing him as “brave” for supposedly “returning Venezuela to the path of democracy, rights, and freedoms.”
De Saint Malo also strongly supported the US-backed 2018 coup attempt against the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
And not only did the coup-sponsoring OAS official celebrate the February 12 CNE meeting between Yaku Pérez and Guillermo Lasso; she personally oversaw the event.
During the meeting, Lasso thanked Pérez for endorsing him in the last presidential election.
“You said ‘I prefer to vote for a banker and not a dictator’; thank you for your vote, candidate Pérez,” Lasso declared.
As the CNE and OAS spend two weeks on the vote recount, and while the Colombian and Ecuadorian prosecutors prepare the baseless ELN case against Arauz, Ecuador’s opposition politicians are working behind the scenes to form a large anti-Correista coalition.
Ecuador’s fourth-place presidential candidate Xavier Hervas, who earned 15.69 percent of the vote, publicly proposed forming an alliance with both Pérez and Lasso. Lasso has said he would support such a coalition.
Even if the recount fails to knock Arauz out of the race, Yaku Pérez has a Plan B. During his February 12 meeting at the CNE, Pérez proposed a total do-ever, holding a new election with no campaigning that would force millions of Ecuadorians to the polls all over again.
There is no legal basis for any of these propositions. But with the support of the US and OAS, Pérez and Lasso enjoy free license to pitch any plan capable of sabotaging a Correista victory.
For his part, Arauz has slammed the anti-democratic assault. Alluding to the attempt by Ecuador’s US-backed government and Colombia to falsely link him to guerrillas, Arauz wrote, “Those who co-governed with Moreno know they lost and are pushing to persecute me with crude lies.”
“They can’t keep blackmailing and cheating justice,” he added. “The Ecuadorian people will not allow a new blow to democracy.”
Bolivia’s former elected President Evo Morales, who was deposed by the US-sponsored military coup in November 2019, echoed Arauz’s condemnation.
“After being complicit in the coup in Bolivia, now the OAS and Almagro are interfering in Ecuador,” Morales stated. “Their interest is not in democracy; it’s to support neoliberal candidates and governments.”
“Our Ecuadorian brothers should be alert,” he advised.
Morales added later: “We are warning of a plan by the right-wing and US in Ecuador, to try to prevent [Arauz] from winning the second round using the prosecutor of Colombia, right-wing parties, and the OAS.”
“We have an obligation to defend democracy and our regional integration,” Morales said. “Keep attentive people!”