Before coming to Ecuador I knew very little about Ecuadorian politics (not that I’m an expert now but slightly more informed).   The limited knowledge that I had before leaving was as a result of research I had to do for a paper/oral presentation for Spanish 300 last semester.

I knew Rafael Correa was the president and that he was on the left end of the spectrum but not as far left as Chavez and more so than Obama.  I also knew that he had made significant social reforms for more equality among all ethnic groups (paper topic) and great strides to improve economic inequality within Ecuador since his entrance in office in 2006.  So in general before coming here I though Correa was a pretty legit guy.  He’s a little socialist, but working for greater equality within the country and further advancement of the country.   If I were Ecuadorian I would have probably voted for him.
My first day at La Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Orientation) came and the president of the college told us an interesting story about a professor that used to teach Economics at USFQ.  The professor was a little headstrong but was intelligent in the field of economics.  One day the professor just decided to not show up for work without word to the USFQ staff.  They soon found out in the newspaper several days later that he was hired as the Minister of Finance in Ecuador.  Within four months he resigned after not getting his way with the World Bank and IMF.  He returned to USFQ but the President of the college refused to have him back so the professor sued the president of the college.  If you didn’t see it coming that Econ professor was Rafael Correa, the current president of Ecuador.

My school and host family hate Correa.  My host mom says that he is very offensive and every opportunity the school gets to bash him they take full advantage of the opportunity and even do it when it’s unnecessary (but he likes to bash USFQ as well).  Hearing something good about Correa at USFQ is like hearing something good about Bush at Madison; it’s not going to happen.  Also bear in mind that USFQ students and the families we stay with are the rich elite of Ecuador.  They are way above and beyond middle class.  So typically any socialist leaning politician is not going to be popular among the rich elite and on the other side any leftist leaning politician is not going to be a fan of the rich elite or as I learned in my marketing class: pelucones.  Pelucones is a word that that references the aristocracy in 17th and 18th century Europe.  They used to wear tall powdered wigs to display their status and wealth.   But the definition is basically an individual that possesses undeserved wealth, “so basically everyone at this university” said the guy next to me when explaining the unfamiliar word.

But these Pelucones have reason besides his bashing of USFQ to dislike Correa.  On such thing is that Correa is trying to nationalize the newspapers in Ecuador like they have in Venezuela.  Three days ago just 2 blocks from my luxurious Quito apartment there was a demonstration comprised of journalists from all over Ecuador protesting Correa and the government controlling the newspapers.  Unfortunately I had to miss watching it because there was a party for international students that day but I did manage to talk to an older gentleman near the demonstration site before the protest.

Even though Correa is trying to take control of the newspapers and imposing more government control he is still very popular and there is a good chance he will win reelection.  By the way it would be his third term.   In 2008 (Correa in Office) the constitution was amended to allow more than two consecutive terms and probably because he was so favorable.   It is really difficult to get an unbiased opinion and accurate statement about the politics in Ecuador when surrounded by the elite minority of a developing country with a huge disparity between rich and poor.

All I’ve read about Correa seems so positive.  He’s a populist standing up to the powerful “bullies” of the world and fighting for social and economic equality and opportunity in Ecuador.  But all I hear about Correa is negative; he is a socialist buddy of Chavez that wants the government to control everything.   I hope by the end of my four months here I am able to intelligently and accurately evaluate Correa and the politics in Ecuador.

Gwen Hasenberg is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.