Monday, September 29, 2008

Ecuador Passes Constitutional Reform

Amid all of the chaos and political news this weekend, a major Latin American event has fallen to the wayside. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, Ecuador's constituent assembly approved a new Constitution, sending the issue to be voted upon by the people. This weekend, Ecuador's population approved the new constitution by a remarkable margin (early data have it at 63% in favor and 29% against). As Boz notes, the complete failure to get any mobilization against the Constitution shows how weak and unorganized the opposition to Correa is in Ecuador, and how much Ecuadorans are tired of the old, weak, imbalanced political system that has led to constant political and economic instability.

This is a huge deal politically and institutionally for Ecuador. Among other things, it will give Ecuador's presidents more power, which is actually a good thing, given how unstable their office has been in the face of a too-powerful Congress. Additionally, this is good for social justice in Ecuador, as it will offer more social programs, and as the shift in institutional power within Ecuador's governance will reduce the power of an extreme minority of landed, almost always non-indigenous elites. It's safe to say that the privileges and cronyism of elite politicians, and the resultant governmental inefficiency, should be greatly reduced, and the social and economic landscape of Ecuador's politics is much more wide open than it has been in the past.

The victory is also an obvious approval of Correa's administration among Ecuadorans, a widespread support that has geopolitical relevance, given the U.S.'s not-major-but-not-insignificant antagonism to his administration (Correa is closer to Chavez and Morales than to Uribe or the U.S.). The short-term and long-term significance this victory has for Ecuador, for Correa, for regional politics, and for even hemispheric geopolitics, cannot be overstated, and it will really be interesting to see how things go for Correa from here.