Rafael Correa Explains the Western Hemisphere

Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa, earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois-Urbana, and he returned to the U.S. campus Thursday to accept the Madhuri & Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement.

Correa’s government appears to aspire to excesses of the Bolivarian movement as committed under Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, including political persecution of the independent media. (See Reason Magazine, “The Bolivarian Rot Spreads.”) The judiciary is both corrupt and under political pressure, and foreign investment is insecure. (See Department of State’s 2010 Investment Climate Report.) The Heritage Foundation’s ranks Ecuador 147th among nations in economic freedom, 26th out of the South American, Central American and Caribbean nations: “Ecuador performs particularly poorly in business freedom, property rights, investment freedom, and freedom from corruption.”

Yet in his otherwise unremarkable speech Thursday, Correa seems to recognize the destructiveness of this anti-investment, anti-American behavior. The most interesting passage (as we can best make out given our rudimentary Spanish and Google translation):

Another thing that I admire a lot about the Anglo-Saxon world is its pragmatism and sense of responsibility. If you commit a mistake here, you make a corresponding analysis, apply the necessary sanctions, and, above all, you take corrective action so it doesn’t happen again. But if you make a mistake in Latin America, we’re going to throw stones at the U.S. embassy. That is, it’s never our fault, it’s always someone else’s fault, and in that way we don’t determine responsibility and reach worse remedies. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same things but expecting different results. We even invented a theory to blame others for our poverty – the Dependency Theory. It says, we are poor because you are rich. No one can deny the mechanisms of exploitation that have been applied throughout history …but to solve our problems we have to accept that we are the primary ones – although not the only ones – responsible for our own situation.

Good. But then how does one explain the government-abetted litigation against Chevron when the government-owned PetroEcuador’s responsibility for Amazonian pollution is so clear and continuing?

For more coverage of Correa’s speech in English, see…hey, there isn’t any coverage! Although the alumni office interviewed him in English, with an .mp3 of the discussion here.

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