Current world order not simply unfair, it’s immoral – Correa to RT
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (AFP Photo / Eduardo Santillan Trujillo)
The US debt is merely a fiction. The real problem lies in those who run the economy, because they protect the interests of the financial capitalists, Ecuadorian economist and President Rafael Correa told RT Spanish.
Correa believes that what he calls‘supremacy of capital’ is what makes the world immoral. The recent economic crises in the US and Europe did not undermine the foundations of their economies, as they retain the production capabilities, science and technology. Their problem is political.
“It’s all about scrambling for power,”Correa told RT. “This is a political rather than economic crisis; this is a problem of social accord,” he said about the US public debt crisis.
RT: Mr. President, thank you for making time for us. Last time you visited Russia in 2009, and back then there was a lot of talk about economic and trade cooperation between our countries. Have Russia and Ecuador developed closer ties since that time?
Rafael Correa: Of course, very much so. First of all, I would like to say thank you to you and your channel for this meeting. I would like to greet the people of Russia, who gave us a warm welcome as always, and also say hello to Latin America and the whole world.
Our visit to Russia in 2009 was very productive. We have strengthened our friendship and cooperation in different areas – trade, economy, technology exchange, etc. Back then, Dmitry Medvedev was the president of Russia, and Vladimir Putin was prime minister. I was in my first term as president then, and since then I have been re-elected. In February, the people of Ecuador entrusted me with this job again and re-elected me as president. Vladimir Putin, too, was re-elected as leader of Russia, and so we thought it would be appropriate to pay another official visit to Russia in order to continue strengthening ties between our countries.
RT: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think back in 2009 banana exports were the key element of cooperation between the two countries. Today, you talk about innovation and cutting-edge technology. Are you going to sign any new agreements?
RC: Actually, back then we discussed many different issues, not just banana exports, even though bananas are our number one export to Russia. Ecuador is a developing country; we are one of the three fastest-growing economies in Latin America, and we offer excellent opportunities for investment. Russia has big government-owned and private corporations, financial resources, science and technology. We have done a lot of work in this area, and Russia currently finances the Toachi Pilaton project, a big power plant in Ecuador. We will also sign other agreements on financing irrigation and power generation projects. Gazprom may explore gas deposits in Guayaquil Bay and help us mine natural resources in the southeastern parts of our country.
We have many areas where we can cooperate with Russia. During the current visit, we emphasize science and technology. We are building a research center in Ecuador, and we would like it to work jointly with the new innovation center in Russia. We plan to expand our exchange programs for scientists and researchers, have more grants for Ecuadoreans to study in Russia. Those grants will be financed by both the Ecuadorean and Russian governments. We want our young people to attend Russia’s excellent schools. So our partnership is much more than just trade and banana exports. Our emphasis in the current visit is different.
RT: What do expect from your meeting with the Russian president, given the fact that Russia and Ecuador share a common position on international law and the role the UN should play?
RC: Vladimir Putin is certainly a great leader. I don’t consider myself as a great leader, but I’m doing my best. I expect that we will quickly clarify all the remaining questions regarding the agreements that will intensify cooperation between our countries, and that we will discuss some international issues, especially those where we share the same approach, like the issue of Syria. Both Russia and Ecuador adamantly opposed the idea of intervention. Vladimir Putin came up with a solution on Syria, and we think that the dismantling of chemical weapons is the right way to go.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Ecuador's President Rafael Correa as they meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, on October 29, 2013. (AFP Photo / Yuri Kochetkov)
RT: Would you say that this was a victory for Russian diplomats?
RC: Of course it was a victory! This was a very important victory for Syria and the whole world. Russia prevented an invasion, and I don’t even know how many presidents are now involved in the process of disarming Syria – I’m referring to chemical weapons, of course.
‘US debt is fiction’
RT: You are first of all an economist…
RC: Yes, but I’m a good man.
RT: Right. What do you think about the current situation in the US? Recent events could send shockwaves throughout the world, endangering other countries’ economies. Was the world ready for such a global impact?
RC: This had an impact primarily on the US economy. This was not a crisis; it was the lack of political agreement. Such things are difficult to understand. The US crisis, especially the public debt, has reached enormous proportions. America’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 105 percent. Ecuador’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 23 percent. That’s less than one-fifth of what the US has. Sorry, less than a quarter. See, I’m an economist - I’m not good with numbers.
Orthodox economists don’t understand the idea of the US currency. Actually, this is a social contract. What do you need the dollar for? If this contract is no longer valid, if somebody says tomorrow: “I don’t accept dollars anymore,” this currency will only be good for starting fire in your fireplace. In other words, the US public debt is merely a question of settling the issue with the Fed, right? It’s a social agreement, and if it doesn’t work, you can reconsider it and start all over again. But because this pre-agreed contract is not flexible, because it doesn’t work, because of this huge debt, it was impossible to reach a political agreement. This is why they ran into this trouble, which cost billions of dollars for the US economy and US citizens. I am talking about public services and welfare.
This is a political rather than economic crisis; this is a problem of social accord. And this debt is fiction. They sacrifice their people for the sake of their Central Bank, which they look up to when making political decisions and defining their economic policies. But the US technological and industrial capabilities, their intellectual resources, the foundation of their real economy – all this is still intact. The currency is a social contract, and in order to avoid such problems, this issue has to be approached differently. But this is where artificial interests and other countries’ economic policies come into play.
It’s hard for me to explain this but I stress, the foundation of the US economy is intact, as well as its industrial capacity, science, technology and smart minds.
RT: Moving on to the crisis in Europe. You’ve warned against acting on the instructions of the IMF several times. What’s your plan and do you see any positive changes in Europe?
RC: The same as with the US. At its core the problem is, basically, political. It’s all about scrambling for power and pursuing your narrow interests. Latin America has a long record of crises. It’s not because we are unique, but because we’ve survived through many economic disasters and most often we were not prepared to face them. We were told that recovery is a science and we need counseling, but instead they imposed an ideology that protected the interests of the financial capitalists. The same in Europe. The crisis did not undermine the foundations of their economies – they still retain the production capabilities, science, technologies and intellectual prowess.
So what’s missing? The answer is public coordination. And what is the key instrument of coordination? It’s currency. Why is the European Central Bank so adamant that the currency should be strong? Because their priority is to protect the interests of the financial capitalists. Their ultimate goal is not to save the economies of Greece or Cyprus, they want to make sure that German and French private banks get their money. However, they would always justify their actions by the highly moral rhetoric like ‘responsibility’,‘subordination’, ‘discipline’. But, originally - and here’s the insight for students of economics - it was a political science and was called ‘political economy’. With time, however, economists sought to put on more weight and create an illusion of an apolitical, positivist approach, and that was how the economists of Sweden’s Central Bank came up with a Nobel prize in economics. It was an attempt to turn economics into an exact science. But this is wrong. It’s a mistake, to make it worse.
The European Central Bank (AFP Photo / John Macdougall)
Economics is still a political science. Any economic steps that a government takes must be put into a perspective of political balance of forces. What’s the goal of the economy? It’s to satisfy human needs. Take Spain, for example. The problem is not down to a lack of homes there. With all my respect for Spain and its government, the economic policy they pursued was really awful. Families that need homes are left without shelter while banks are well-off as they’ve become owners of so much property that they actually don’t need. Why is there no coordination?
The real problem lies in those who run the economy, who run the society, because they protect the interests of the financial capitalists. It’s the capital, financial capital in particular, that runs the economy, not the ordinary European citizens. It all depends on the capital. That’s the main problem. Multi-million-dollar financial aid won’t save it. The real problem is that the capital owns the society, it owns the people. Until this problem is tackled, the recovery will be a challenging task that will require a lot of effort. But what’s more important is that they will continue this crisis and will not take any measures to overcome it in the near future.
‘It’s a time of hope in Latin America’
RТ: You mentioned Spain. Until recently, it was a destination where many Ecuadorians fled in search of a job. But the situation has changed in the past years. We’ve been to Ecuador many times and every time we saw Spaniards who’d come to Ecuador and live there. Do you feel this change happening? Will Latin America become the Promised Land for Europeans?
RC: Let me get back to the previous issue and finish with it first. The main way to revive growth and employment in Europe is to push for an active currency policy. This could trigger off an inflation hike. Who will benefit from inflation? Those who own a lot of liquidity, i.e. the financial sector. Again, everything depends on the financial sector. The euro crisis is not a real crisis that shatters the foundations of the economy. It’s a crisis of coordination. The main instrument of public coordination is currency, which they are reluctant to use and seek to protect the interests of the financial sector first. That’s the main reason. You could try to disguise this with nice words, talk about science and technical precision, but in reality they simply defend the interests of the financial capitalists and private European banks. They are not protecting the interests of ordinary people.
As to your next question, yes, it’s a time of hope in Latin America. Of course, we shouldn’t be overplaying it. It’s true that Latin America is moving forward, poverty and inequality are on decline in some countries like Ecuador, for example. But it’s still a long way before we can reach European living standards. Indeed, we are seeing a high pace of economic growth, but you have to bear in mind that initially we started out with a very low level.
Europe is stagnating, but they’ve already achieved quite a high level. Growth is all about a gain in production capabilities, the ability to produce goods and services. In Europe, the production capability is now flat, but it boasts huge output volumes anyway, which helps them to meet the needs of their people. Latin America has just started building a foundation for this, and if we keep on doing it, we will be able to significantly move forward. Today, Latin America is a region with vast opportunities. One of the biggest tragedies for me was the massive migration that our country went through earlier. About 2 million people left Ecuador in just a couple of years. They had to leave their home country in appalling conditions, on overloaded boats which often sank, killing hundreds of people. Their goal was to cross the US border, to get to Spain. The massive outflow took place after the 1999 banking crisis caused by neoliberalism and deregulation of the financial markets. The situation was very similar to what is happening in Europe today.
It was very painful for me as an economist to watch our economy and the social sector going underwater. And so I feel very blessed with the opportunity to see a reverse trend taking place. The migrants are returning home. Many Europeans, including from Spain and Italy come to Ecuador in search of a better life. So of course, Latin America is a territory of vast opportunities. But it doesn’t mean that we’ve tackled all of our issues. It’s just the first steps, and we need to move forward along this road.
RT: Probably the fact that you returned its nationhood to Ecuador is your key achievement as president of the country.
RC: Yes, and I already mentioned that. We have achieved a lot, but we still have much ahead of us. However, we succeeded in the key thing – we put an end to hopelessness. Back in 2007, the country was completely dispirited and torn. It was a country that had lost its dignity. The idea that we were absolutely useless was instilled into our minds. The country didn't even have a national currency after the crisis of 1999, because our precious ‘jet-set’ had decided we were genetically less developed and so couldn't have a national currency. It never occurred to them that it was all about who controlled the country’s politics, economy and the mass media. It was an issue of political character.
So the country was dispirited. Let me repeat, we are nowhere near saying all our problems have been solved, but there is hope for Ecuador at this point. The country’s dignity and self-confidence is back. There is nothing we wouldn't be able to achieve and that is the major breakthrough of the revolution.
‘Every nation is exceptional’
RT: You mentioned that previously the people of Ecuador were used to thinking of themselves as of second-rate people. On the other hand, there are Americans who, as you said, think of themselves as a superior nation. I’m referring now to Barack Obama’s speech where he talked about the USA being exceptional. In one of your interviews to RT you said that this is a very dangerous thing to say. Why do you believe it to be very dangerous? Don’t you think that the Americans have long since got used to thinking of themselves as superior to all other nations?
RC: Let me expand on what I said. One of the main tools that were used to make the people of Ecuador get used to the idea that things like good roads, quality education and so on are not for them but for some other people, people of the ‘first world’. Well, one such tool was mass media that through these kinds of messages - whether consciously or unconsciously - hindered our development. The USA has always believed that they are above the right and wrong and can force any political agenda on to others, and so on and so forth. All this is in the past now.
Also, speaking of the USA… I lived there for some time, and I would agree that the American people are indeed exceptional people, just as much as the Russian people are. Just think of the enormous sacrifice the Russian people made in order to secure the victory in the World War II. It was the USSR that made that victory happen. Such cities as Moscow and St. Petersburg, which I visited yesterday, were awarded the titles of hero cities for their contribution to the victory. Just think of it - 20 million [Soviet] people died in that war! The US lost 500,000, while the Soviet Union lost 40 times that.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa takes part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow on October 29, 2013. (AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov)
I believe every nation is in a way exceptional. The problem is that it is extremely dangerous to think of oneself as exceptional and entitled to the right to decide what is good and what is bad. And I’m afraid that this is exactly what happens often with the USA and is reflected in their foreign policy. They believe to have the right to decide what is right and what is wrong, whereas we all are parts of the multipolar democratic world that has its rules and norms that are to be followed – and not the orders of one government that believes in being exceptional and is acting like the world’s policeman, and while doing that gets caught in controversies such as the mass espionage scandal that surfaced up lately, or the incident with the chemical weapons that were discovered in Panama.
‘Capital trying to lay burden on shoulders of citizens’
RT: Speaking of espionage, you said that you hope that this unfair world order will soon come to an end. What do think the world will be like in about 20 years from now? Do you believe something will change?
RC: Well, I specialize in economics, not in predictions. We are realistic idealists. The thing is that the world order is more than simply unfair, it is immoral. I am going to speak about this tomorrow at the Peoples' Friendship University. I am going to say that in this world, everything depends on the capital, and I call it the ‘supremacy of capital’. I am going to speak about how alternative political processes such as the one we have in Ecuador, the process striving for social justice, are counteracted not only on the national level, but also on the international level; they face counteraction of the international mass media, international capital, and the world powers that want to subdue over nations and don’t want us to be free.
But we are also aware of the fact that one of the most glaring mistakes made by the left-wing forces in our country is that they think that our countries can change this world order on our own, that we can change the global distribution of labor by shutting down oil production. The only thing we can do through that is starve ourselves to death, but we won’t change a thing on the international level. This is a huge mistake. Whether it comes from being naïve, or irresponsible, or downright crazy, I do not know.
In other words, Ecuador is not going to change this unfair world order. I believe that the citizens of the developed countries will do it as soon as they realize that they are also victims of the supremacy of capital, even though they didn’t see it before because the progress brought some benefits not only to the capital itself, but also to the people. But once it comes down to a crisis, these resources become off-limits, and political tension develops.
For example, now, people in Europe have realized where the crisis came from. The capital is trying to lay the whole burden on the shoulders of the ordinary citizens and get away with it. This is why I’m hoping that this unfair world order where capital is a higher value than the interests of the people will change. The same is going on inside the leading world powers where interests of the capital prevail, too. Ecuador is not trying to change the situation as it has come to be; yet we will try and protect our people from this unfair world order. This is what the integration of the Latin American nations is meant to help accomplish. United, we will become stronger and gain more weight on the international arena.
I insist that even if we can’t change the current world order – as this is something too challenging for Latin America to tackle, we do not have enough influence – we nonetheless have a duty to protect our nations from this unfair and immoral world order driven by the interests of the capital alone.
RT: Ecuador is taking an active part in the integration mechanisms in Latin America, such as the Union of South American Nations, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. After the incident with Evo Morales’s plane I assume the solidarity between the countries has grown stronger. What would you say about that?
RC: Let’s talk about the Union of South American Nations then. We often talk about things that our viewing audience might not be very well familiar with. So the question is – how can we protect ourselves from the unfair world order, the capitalist empire, and how can we do that through integration? Left-wing movements have been opposing imperialism for decades. But what is the imperialism of the 21st century exactly? It is loads of weapons, bombs, and guns and so on? No! Imperialism today is loads of dollars and all sorts of structures working towards subduing our countries. Among these structures are the arbitration courts. Through them, any transnational corporation can challenge any sovereign state, and these courts always serve the capital. How can we protect our nations from such abuse?
Protesters march towards the US embassy in La Paz on July 8, 2013 to burn an effigy of US President Barack Obama and a coffin with flags of Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, a week after Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane, flying home from a trip to Moscow last week, was forced to make an unscheduled stopover in Vienna after these four European nations temporarily closed their airspace over groundless rumours that fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was aboard the jet. (AFP Photo / Jorge Bernal)
Let us take the Chevron case. We could protect the interests of our citizens by establishing our own court of arbitration within the UNASUR framework, thus employing an integration vehicle for purposes of justice. No one questions the necessity of ensuring legal protection of investment. But it is not mutual investment that the existing international agreements secure in reality, but the ability of capital to abuse entire nations and their populace. This is an actual example of the rule of capital, which all those international institutions are meant to uphold. Thanks to the existing international courts of arbitration, any multinational company can sue a sovereign state, bypassing a national court. And look who the judges are – they are on the payroll of those same corporations.
As for the forced landing of Evo Morales’ plane, that was a truly despicable incident. But at the end of the day, I think it has only served to strengthen our solidarity. In fact, the subsequent UNASUR meeting was convened spontaneously. A few countries refused to take part, even though the meeting had been prompted by a blatant international offense, a gross violation of international law and of air safety, which had jeopardized the life of an elected head of state. Under UNASUR procedures, decision making must be based on consensus, including matters of summoning an extraordinary summit. This became a roadblock for us when two UNASUR member states opted out of an extraordinary meeting. So we shouldn’t delude ourselves: although we did see prompt reaction to the incident from quite a few Latin American leaders, we still didn’t manage a unanimous response that was needed.
This points to something even more fundamental and alarming, namely a conservative counteroffensive in Latin America. The region’s conservatives and rightwing parties had grown so lax by the turn of the century that several countries voted progressive governments into office, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and even Chile. But the international powers-that-be are anything but stupid, and once they realized that Latin America was going through a major transition, they promptly mustered a response. It is known as the Pacific Alliance, which is good old oppression by a new name, a move to choke free trade in Latin America. We seek new markets and new customers, and we do not persecute our citizens for political reasons, and yet we are facing a conservative backlash.
RT: Mr. President, you have mentioned the Chevron-Texaco case. That company inflicted devastating environmental damage on your country by dumping toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest. I know that you recently visited Lego Agrio in order to assess the environmental situation and bring it to public attention. But now there is a new challenge: Chevron has filed a lawsuit in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, demanding that Ecuador, and not Chevron, should indemnify the locals in the polluted areas. Meanwhile, it is really Chevron who owes Ecuador a total of $19 billion in damages. Could this be a new ploy aimed at bankrupting your country?
RC: This case is yet another manifestation of the imperial rule of capital. Its pet courts produce rulings that absolve multinational companies of any responsibility for their misconduct. The damage caused by Texaco in Ecuador is evident. All you need to do to see for yourself is come to the Lego Agrio area and dip your hand in the first puddle you come upon. Your hand will emerge greasy – and that’s 20 years after Texaco closed shop in our country.
Chevron Corporation acquired Texaco in 2000, and now they are using their billions of dollars and their lapdog media to blame the pollution on EP Petroecuador, a state-owned Ecuadorean oil company. You can go and ask the locals in the area whether it was Texaco or Petroecuador who poisoned their land. Or do you think our government could have persuaded thousands of indigenous peasants to tell one and the same lie?
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa shows his oil-covered hand at Aguarico 4 oil well in Aguarico, Ecuador on September 17, 2013. (AFP Photo / Rodrigo Buendia)
Texaco’s fault is evident and impossible to cover up, but Chevron executives apparently have no conscience. In fact, the rainforest communities initially wanted their lawsuit against the company to be decided by a New York court, so Chevron spent 10 years arguing that an Ecuadorean court had enough competence to hear this case. They were hoping to buy the court in Ecuador, but they couldn’t, and the Ecuadorean court found them guilty. So Chevron turned around and started arguing exactly the opposite.
But that is not all of it. Chevron lost a class action lawsuit and appealed it in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. They insist that Ecuador must itself finance the indemnities awarded to the plaintiffs, citing an agreement signed in 1998 by Texaco and Ecuador’s former government. In that agreement, the corrupt officials who ran Ecuador at the time conceded that Texaco’s clean-up operations had been sufficient, and absolved the company of any further responsibility. However, the Ecuadorean Treasury debunked Texaco’s clean-up as a sham in 2000, way before I became president. But the damage was already done: since Ecuador’s corrupt previous government has renounced any further claims by way of an international treaty, we as a state can no longer sue the company.
However, that doesn’t bar individual plaintiffs from filing their lawsuits, nor can the Ecuadorean government ban its citizens from suing a company. So a number of Amazon indigenous communities sued Texaco, and were awarded damages by an Ecuadorean court. And now Chevron is appealing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, arguing that Ecuador should pay the bills.
There is more to it. Chevron’s suit in the PCA relies on a Bilateral Investment Treaty between Ecuador and the US, which entered into force in 1997. But Texaco closed its operations in Ecuador back in 1992. That means that Chevron is trying to invoke an agreement in respect of a case that dates back longer then the treaty itself. Like I said, those people have no scruples. If a public body were to use similar tricks, it would have been penalized for improper conduct.
And there is still more to it. The agreement they cite concerns the relations between a government and a company, whereas the court decision that awarded damage to the rainforest communities was based on a class action lawsuit filed by individuals. It lies outside the scope of that agreement. Despite this fact, The Hague arbitration panel deemed itself competent to review the decision of the Ecuadorean court. And the first thing they did was urge our government to revoke the court decision, as if they didn’t even consider Ecuador a democratic state governed by the rule of law, where the judiciary is independent of the government.
Besides, by proclaiming itself competent to review the decision of the court in Lago Agrio, The Hague panel effectively made itself eligible to collect a $300,000 litigation fee paid by a defendant government. So there is a conflict of interest, unfair litigation, and outright corruption. They have passed a judgment in bad faith so as to grant Chevron impunity and make Ecuador pay for the damage that had been done to us. The whole world should know about this. This is an evident example of how multinational corporations deliberately seek to put themselves above the law and escape responsibility, using their money and influence, their lobby groups and their lapdog judiciary.
RT: An RT crew has also visited Lago Agrio and produced a documentary on the Chevron controversy, titled A Tainted Land. It is accessible at the RT Spanish website.
RC: Such things are impossible to hide. You can go and talk to the local residents of the rainforests. You can go to any place where Chevron - Texaco at that time - was working and you will see the rubbish they left behind. Was Petroecuador working there? No, never. You cannot hide this. But still, despite the conclusive evidence, those people think they can use their millions of dollars, their power, their influence in the mass media, their lobby in Congress to humiliate a country which may be small, but is a sovereign country and which has its dignity. They can’t get away with that. The world needs to know about it.
‘Latin American mass media represent right forces’
RT: Mr. President, let’s talk about Yasuni. Ecuador is about to start oil drilling there. How did you manage to get the support of the Amazonian communities and of the members of parliament? Despite all the disputes in the media, this project enjoys wide support among people.
RC: You know, Ecuadorean and Latin American media in general are the worst and most corrupt media in the world. Even Vargas Llosa, who published a column in Lima’s El Comercio, complained that the yellow press was manipulating facts and interfering into politics. But nobody is doing anything about it, because everyone fears the power of the mass media. Russia and the whole world need to realize that the Latin American mass media represent the right forces who are trying to destabilize the Latin American governments.
Throughout history the media often supported dictatorships. For example, Chile’s El Mercurio supported a coup against President Salvador Allende. Progressive governments have to deal with this kind of media day after day. Some try to convince us that to protect the media is to protect the freedom of speech. But actually they are private illegitimate companies which are each day opposing progressive governments. They will be held accountable for this. The community has the right and obligation to control the media, which are not manufacturing neckties or CDs, but are ensuring the most important right, the right to information. The media are forming the public opinion, so they are not allowed to manipulate the facts in such an impudent way.
Supporters of President Rafael Correa, backing oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park, hold banners outside the National Assembly building in Quito on October 3, 2013, as lawmakers decide their vote on Correa's request for the exploitation. (AFP Photo / Rodrigo Buendia)
This is all about the Latin American media. The media interfere in everything, including Yasuni. If tomorrow we decide to meet with young people and discuss the work of the universities, the media are going to meddle with that too. This capitalist press assumes the role of the political parties and opposes the government. So the commercial organizations are ensuring the right to information. This is a contradiction: commercial entities and rights.
The decision regarding Yasuni was the hardest one. It took us six years to come to this decision. This was the ‘Ruptura’movement initiative. We expected international organizations to make sure that Ecuador’s National park with immense biodiversity is preserved undamaged. I’m not talking about the park itself, but about its oil reserves – an estimated 800 million barrels of crude oil. Drilling would cause 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. To avoid this, we were ready to leave the oil there, but this would mean that Ecuador would lose billions. We asked the international community to pick up at least half of the burden. But their share was insignificant.
They took practically no responsibility. Because the amount of money we received was not enough, I decided that I couldn’t kowtow to companies participating in the global contamination without thinking about the people of Ecuador. We were always saying that we’re going to do the drilling according to the ecological and social requirements. After this decision was announced, most people supported us. We got the support of our party and of the National Assembly.
So we are about to start the drilling. But you cannot forget that the press stood up to protect the environment. They didn’t care about the rainforests before that. Some political factions which lost the elections used this forced difficult decision to lobby their interests in order to restore their political reputation. We are used to this. We know that the people of Ecuador support us. We realize that we’ve made this difficult decision, but it was necessary.
RT: Mr. President, one important issue left to discuss is the one you mentioned today already, it is the US-led espionage that many Latin American nations have been found to be victims of, such as Brazil and Mexico, and recently, a similar story emerged around Angela Merkel. Nonetheless, it appears that the USA has not had any serious consequences to deal with over all this, and their allies, including Germany, keep supporting them. Is this what you meant when you spoke about the imperialism of the dollar?
RC: It is one of the aspects of the imperialism. The USA itself is controlled by the transnational corporations. The level and scope of injustice that is going on today is such that it is simply impossible to understand how the mankind is letting it all happen. I believe that the main goal of the 21st century is to find a way to establish people’s control over the capital.
I read a report recently saying that the annual income of one of America’s richest people has exceeded $2 billion. That means his daily income is about $2 million. That means that over the 30 minutes we have been having this interview, he made half a million. It is unbelievable. And so all these (developed) countries are dependent on the capital.
I’d like to point out that earlier, while a lot was being invested into the technical research and development, everyone was OK with it. But once the crisis began the money resources dwindled, and the political situation has grown tense to the extreme. This showed the US that it, too, is a slave to capital. As for the espionage issue, I’d like to say the following. First, the US said that they needed it to fight terrorism. I don’t know if one can connect Angela Merkel with terrorism. But I believe it is clear now…
RT: That’s a good point.
RC: …It is clear now that this is done in the financial interests of the transnational corporations. But if we imagine for a second that it wasn’t the US but Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Russia, Ecuador, or Argentina involved in espionage they’d have long since been called to the International Court of Justice in The Hague as perpetrators and dictators. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen in case of the USA, since justice is not working efficiently at the international level. The litigation around Chevron is a proof of it. There is a saying that is over 2000 years old which says “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” And the USA is exactly the stronger one here.
RТ: It’s been a year since Julian Assange was holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Edward Snowden is now in Russia. What are we going to see next? What does the Russian support in this standoff against the UK mean for you?
RC: We do appreciate Russia’s support and the support of people from many other countries that stood up for us, including the English people. This issue could be only resolved by the UK, Sweden and Europe. The UK could give Assange a pass to leave the country. It should have done so initially. Any Latin American state would have done so. It’s wrong when they call us backward countries.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media and his supporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (AFP Photo / Carl Court)
Sweden could send a prosecutor to question Assange in London, and this is absolutely legal by Swedish law. Nobody wanted to stand in the way of the Swedish justice system. They could have questioned Assange via a video link. In principle, this situation could be resolved tomorrow if the UK and Sweden wanted to. So it’s up to them, basically. We’ve done what we had to in a manner that we believe was appropriate. We didn’t consult anybody, but we acted in strict compliance with all the norms of the international law and human rights. Mr. Assange has the right to request political asylum and we have the right to grant it to anyone we think fit. Right now, it’s up to Europe, the UK and Sweden to resolve it.
RТ: Just recently, Ecuador qualified for the 2014 World Cup. We saw you cheering for the national team at the stadium. What’s your bet?
RC: Football is our national passion.
RT: And yours, too?
RC: Yes, it’s my passion, too. I love football and express my love in every way. I think we have a strong team, but there are factors which made it more difficult for us to get through. First, Ecuador could have won more games, but we weren’t lucky with the referees. Second, the sudden death of our top scorer, Christian Benitez, better known as Chucho, was a heavy blow to us. He was very young when he died of heart failure. Nevertheless, Ecuador managed to qualify and it was great news for the whole country. I believe our national team is very capable. I hope they get to the quarterfinals and have a lucky streak at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
RT: Good luck to them. Mr. President, thank you for this interview.
RC: You are welcome. I would like to thank you and your country for giving us such a warm welcome. And do come to Latin America and Ecuador. It’s a wonderful country.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.