This article addresses two of the writer's favorite corporate media targets - the Wall Street Journal's far-right editorial page and New York Times on every page. Both broadsheets were recently in attack mode taking on two Latin American leaders deserving praise but never getting any other than occasional backhanded kinds from papers devoted to one dual core mission - supporting the power elite and their own bottoms lines. First, the Journal.
Readers need a strong stomach and nerves of steel venturing onto the Wall Street Journal's editorial page any time, but especially on days when self-styled "Latin American expert" Mary Anastasia O'Grady's columns appear. This writer has tangled with her a time or two before. In a response last fall, it was suggested she one day risks a serious back problem, the result of her permanent position of genuflection to the far-right extremists she pledges allegiance to. Based on her latest offering, nothing has changed, but readers be warned. Those accepting how she views Latin America won't ever know the way it really is.
Her latest April 9 column titled "Sharp Left Turn in Ecuador" makes the case. It demands another go at her at least to set the record straight she never does except for those preferring her kind of vitriol and fiction to fact. First off, a reminder of O'Grady's background to understand where she's coming from. She earlier worked as an options strategist for Advest, Inc., Thompson McKinnon Securities, and Merrill Lynch & Co. She was also employed once at the far-right Heritage Foundation think tank that never met a regressive corporate-friendly policy or US war of aggression it didn't support or a populist progressive independent head of state it didn't denounce as a threat to national security or worse.
O'Grady was also awarded the private media Inter-American Press Association's (IAPA - for private media corporations) Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary in 1997 and received an honorable mention in IAPA's opinion award category for 1999. In addition, she won first prize in the 2005 Annual Bastiat Prize for Journalism. The prize was established and run by the International Policy Network (IPN - a UK based NGO) to "encourage and reward writers whose published works promote the institutions of a free society" according to how its patron saint, 19th century French-born Frederic Bastiat, saw things. He had a deep distrust of government in any form and thought regulation and control were inefficient, economically destructive and morally wrong, or as IPN puts it: It supports "limited government, rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary, protection of private property, free markets, free speech, and sound science."
It sounds like apple pie and motherhood, but IPN doesn't explain those things are in the eye of the beholder, and high-sounding language can easily brush over policies of another kind. One nation's free markets doesn't mean they're fair and private property rights have no right infringing on the public commons. They're for everyone equally, not just the elitist ones IPN refers to reflecting its membership encouraging what it calls "better public understanding of the role of the institutions of the free society in social and economic development."
O'Grady launches her attack with what she calls "the constitutional crisis that Ecuador finds itself in today (facing a) modern day plunder frenzy (pitting) President Raphael Correa, an outspoken admirer of Venezuelan Hugo Chavez, against members of Congress who wish to preserve the country's institutional balance of power. At stake is the future of democracy, with 13 million Ecuadoreans facing the prospect of life under a soft dictatorship allied with the Venezuelan strongman."
It's enough to take your breath away, and a little translation is in order to set the record straight O'Grady never does. Remember where she's coming from, who she writes for, and above all whom she represents - the nation's power elite, not the people of Ecuador who elected Correa last November in a run-off presidential election. He decisively bested bible-toting, billionaire oligarch and banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa 58% to 42% in a race pitting progressive populism against more of the same meaning status quo in a country long ruled for the interests of capital with no regard for the public welfare.
Correa took office January 15 making impressive promises he's so far trying to keep. That arouses O'Grady's ire so she oxymoronically refers to "non-democratic Ecuador" while admitting, at the same time, Correa "was elected fair and square." The people of Ecuador, 70% of whom live in poverty, were crying for change as do most others in Latin America where free elections are as rare as an early Chicago spring, and "demonstration" fake ones are nearly all they get. They're stage-managed to look democratic but usually turn out leaving power in the hands of the powerful, never the people they rule with disdain and indifference. Today they're run the same way in the US in the age of George Bush gifted his office twice through "electoral engineering," winning it neither time fair and square like Correa did in spite of great efforts to prevent it.
Early on, Correa campaigned like George Bush never did promising real change including using the country's oil revenue (Ecuador is the hemisphere's fifth largest producer) for critically needed social services Ecuadoreans never got before from right wing governments unwilling to provide them. He promised a "citizens' revolution" beginning by drafting a new Constitution in a Constituent Assembly with a national referendum on it scheduled for Sunday, April 15 following the same pattern his ally Hugo Chavez chose in 1999 following his first election as Venezuela's president in December, 1998. With popular support for it overwhelming (85% according to government polls, likely very accurate), it's virtually certain to pass, again arousing O'Grady's ire calling this democratic process a "power grab" intended to "rewrite the highest law of the land, crush the opposition and make himself (Correa) ruler for life (sparking a) constitutional crisis." For the kleptocracy maybe, not for the long-exploited people.
O'Grady is right about one thing. Only the country's unicameral legislature can call for a national constitutional referendum, but that's precisely what it did by a vote of 54 - 1 with two abstentions after most opposition Christian Democratic Union (UDC) deputies walked out facing overwhelming popular sentiment for it and their likely defeat.
Here's O'Grady's account of things, all false and pure nonsense: "Mr. Correa (got) the electoral court (Ecuador's Supreme Electoral Council - TSE) to 'expel' 57 of his opponents (only 43 walked out) from the 100-seat unicameral legislature (they left on their own) and enlist(ed) the police to enforce the expulsions (false - there were none). He then called in his 'militias' (and) in recent days the streets of Quito (the capital) have been flush with violent activists (mass public supporters) sending a message in favor of the Correa plebiscite....Mr. Correa (with) an approval rating of about 60% (around 70%, in fact) seems to believe he has carte blanche to make the law wherever he decides it is." Ecuadoreans will decide it, not Raphael Correa as O'Grady knows but won't say. Her job is delivering red meat for the faithful and pure baloney to her readers for the powerful interests she serves deferentially.
She goes on pathetically calling the people of Ecuador a "mobocracy" in a country led by a "caudillo"
(strongman). Disingenuously she says Sunday's referendum is "outside the law" referring to the democratic voice of the people as "lawful plunder." She then improperly quotes her apparent patron saint Frederic Bastiat at the end saying: "Woe to the nation....when the mass victims (the exploited masses) of lawful plunder....in turn seize the power to make laws." In fact, they seized nothing. They're democratically voting for it to get what negates O'Grady's final comment that "The losers, of course, will be the majority of Ecuadoreans." The people feel otherwise.
Here's why. Ecuadoreans look north and elected Raphael Correa to do for them what Hugo Chavez continues doing for the Venezuelan people. Venezuelans showed their admiration by reelecting Chavez in December by a nearly two to one margin over his only serious Washington-backed and financially supported opponent. Correa promised and appears set on delivering the same kind of social democratic agenda Venezuelans now have and embrace. At its core is a true democratic process and kinds of progressive social programs Chavez gave his people. To move forward, he first needs popular approval to rewrite the country's Constitution he surely will get this Sunday.
With it, Ecuador should have a new Constitution later this year which will likely again be put to a popular referendum to let the people decide on it, not the politicians. If it's anything like the 1999 Constitucion de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, it will be a cornucopia of progressive social policies written into law that may include state-delivered health care, education and other benefits for all Ecuadoreans Correa promised to serve. Correa already said he wants freedom from debt slavery under IMF/World Bank Washington Consensus neoliberal rules by renegotiating the country's debt to eliminate the odious part of it, the result of previous governments' corrupt dealings at the expense of the people.
Correa is also negotiating bilateral and other economic deals with Hugo Chavez and other Latin leaders based on Venezuela's Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas or ALBA model. It's the mirror-opposite of FTAA/NAFTA-type one-way pacts sucking wealth from developing states to benefit Global North ones, mostly the US. ALBA is based on sound principles of complementarity, solidarity and cooperation aimed at comprehensive integration among Latin American nations to build their social states in contrast to US-type deals wanting to destroy them for profit. Correa also promised 100,000 low-cost homes, a raise in the minimum wage, and doubling the small "poverty bonus" 1.2 million poor Ecuadoreans get each month. Still more is likely to follow if Correa is true to his word and has constitutional authority to act.