By Ekow Bartels-Kodwo
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador is a very busy man these days. He recently emerged as victor in a libel suit that he brought against two journalists from the Ecuadorian paper El Universo at the National Court of Justice in Quito. He sued the journalists for USD 5 million apiece, and was awarded USD 1 million from each of the defendants, although he later pardoned both editors. His litigious victory is among the few positive developments for Correa of late, as he faces a number of newly-emerging challenges as Ecuador’s president. In one such instance, he is being forced to defend his decision to award mining contracts in Ecuador’s jungle without first conferring with the directly-affected communities that live on the land. His hasty decision has incited massive protests among Amazonian indigenous communities. To make matters worse, President Correa is also facing a challenge for his job from none other than his very own brother.
In an interview published on March 13, 2012 in Uruguayan newspaper El Pais, Fabricio Correa, President Rafael Correa’s older brother, explained his motivations for running for trying to unseat his own kin. Speaking from Montevideo, Fabricio Correa lamented the rampant corruption and increasing insecurity due to the activities of drug cartels, while also accusing his brother of clamping down too hard on press freedoms. “We are constantly living in fear [in Ecuador],” he maintained.
Fabricio Correa, controversial in his own right, has been in the national spotlight since his relationship with the younger Correa went sour in 2009 following the termination of government contracts awarded to his companies. More recently, Fabricio came to the attention of the Ecuadorian national media after the president sued the two El Universo journalists. Rafael Correa levied legal action against the two after they in part based new revelations on accounts given by Fabricio. Certain investigative chapters, later revealed in their book El Gran Hermano, unearthed corrupt deals made by Fabricio’s companies. The piece reiterated Fabricio’s claims that his brother, the president, was well-aware of the corrupt bidding process used in awarding government contracts.
This court case, which was tried before the Ecuadorian National Court of Justice (CNJ) in Quito, led to the brothers accusing and counter-accusing each other of corruption. This cat-and-mouse game of claim and counterclaim culminated in Fabricio Correa submitting the necessary 158,000 signatures and requisite paperwork to make official his candidacy for the presidential election, which is set to take place in 2013.
Unlike the Miliband brothers in the United Kingdom, who are both running for the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K. with each other’s blessings, the relationship between these two brothers is quite fierce. They are constantly engaged in a highly-publicized war of words with each other; Rafael called his big brother a greedy “big shot,” while Fabricio retorted by accusing his brother of “lacking manliness.”
Until now, the political opposition in Ecuador has been largely disorganized. A number of discussions aiming to unify the country’s biggest opposition factions have proven to be futile, as the deep-seeded ideological divisions continue to thwart attempts at temporary alliances and mergers to run against President Correa. This has created a unique opportunity for Fabricio Correa and his new EQUIPO Party to mount what looks like the only viable challenge to the president, who has governed the country since 2007.
For now, Fabricio Correa has submitted the requisite documents to run for the country’s highest office, but it remains to be seen whether the National Electoral Council can act independent of the president’s influence and confirm the elder Correa’s candidacy for the presidency. Regardless of how things turn out, one thing is clear: the next meeting of the two brothers may not be the most pleasant.
COHA Research Associate Ekow Bartels-Kodwo