Ecuadorians have voted in the first round of their Presidential election. This was the first election since 2006 in which Ecuadorians will not be able to vote for popular leftist leader Rafael Correa.
With 80% of the votes counted Correa’s former Vice President and endorsee Lenín Moreno is leading for votes with over 38%. It is now a certainty that he will have won the first round of votes. All that remains to be seen is if it will get enough votes to avoid a second round in April.
Like many in South America, Ecuador has peacefully broken out of the ultra-right wing clutches of US hegemony. For Ecuadorians, this was expressed through the increased nationalization of resources like oil, windfall taxation imposed on big corporations and an improvement in social services for the poor.
Internationally, though, Correra is probably best known as the man who granted asylum to Julian Assange in his hour of need, at a time when Britain, Sweden and the United States were all looking for his blood, in spite of the fact that he was never charged with any crime in Sweden.
This took on a new meaning in the election as Moreno’s right-wing opponent Guillermo Lasso vowed to resend Assange’s asylum, thereby effectively throwing him to the dogs.
This would have been a national embarrassment for Ecuador. If Ecuador could not handle the pressure of sheltering a well-known figure like Assange, they should have never taken it on.
But Correa was a personal supporter. Correa has stated that it was only through Wikileaks that he learned of US interference in the internal affairs of Ecuador and for that, he was eternally grateful.
But for Ecuador, the cause of Assange soon took on a deeper meaning. Ecuador was seen by the wider world as a bastion of justice and humanitarianism, standing defiantly against a west that had long surrendered any credibility when it came to such things.
If a right-wing government were to reverse this stance, it would show that Ecuador was prepared to sell out on its principles of compassion and fairness. It would frankly appear pathetic.
Moreno’s victory is a vote of confidence for Correa’s time in office. It also sends a message that a country typically off the wider international radar is willing to stand up to big bullies in the wider world.