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13 September, 2016

Ecuador fights back to put people over profits

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long speaks to teleSUR's Abby Martin on Empire Files about the country's rejection of neoliberalism and imperialism

Ecuador’s fight to reclaim its sovereignty and beat back neoliberalism and foreign domination has been rife with challenges, but the movement to lift up people over profits has also made progress in asserting a “pro-human agenda,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long told teleSUR’s Abby Martin.

Probably the most significant change in the last 10 years in Ecuador is the construction of a state with regulations and institutions in the way of modernity,” said Long in an interview aired on Martin’s program Empire Files. “It’s the kind of state building that has made countries less vulnerable to the kind of predatory behaviour by private actors but also other states.

Recuperation of Ecuador’s natural resources, particularly oil, has been a key part of asserting the country’s sovereignty, long threatened by its peripheral position in the global economy, The left-wing government of President Rafael Correa also aims to break with its dependence on oil, Long said, but the steps must be gradual.

You need to do this strategically,” he said. “You need to use the benefits of oil and reinvest them in all sorts of other sectors and you need to redistribute at the same time...it’s a long, ongoing process.

And the process has not been without bumps in the road. Since he was first elected in 2006, Correa's so-called Citizen’s Revolution has lifted more than one million Ecuadoreans out of poverty while hiking the minimum wage by 80 percent and sinking crucial state investments into transforming health care and education. But the wealth redistribution has also sparked a backlash from Ecuador’s elite that long held a stranglehold on the country’s economy and politics.

When you start forcing the elites to belong to a social contract, to give rights to workers to redistribute, to stop fencing themselves away it hyper securitized citadels … it creates resistance,” said Long.

The history of social change and redistribution everywhere in the world is always marked by a degree of social change and conflict,” he continue. “The question is to manage that conflict so that it doesn't become violent.

Ecuador’s anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal policy agenda — including prioritizing Latin American regional integration, challenging the power of global financial institutions, and shutting down a U.S. air base in the coastal city of Manta — has also ruffled feathers on the international level.

All these things create conflict,” Long said. “Daring to be sovereign … is about the supremacy of the human being over capital, unlike what we’ve been living for the last decades of neoliberalism, which is clearly supremacy of capitalism over human beings.

Long argued the people’s well-being is ultimately at the core of the struggle, and state policies and how governments use markets to their benefit should be designed to work toward that end.

The human being is the end of all political action,” he said. “Human happiness is the ultimate goal of political action and therefore government policies.

Full interview:

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