Rene Ramirez At The LSE: “Our Objective Is To Transform Ecuador”:

On 19th May, Queen Mary College, University of London, published the results of its in-depth survey of Latin Americans living and working in the capital. “No Longer Invisible” is the title of the 142-page English-language version. Its conclusions are  based on research conducted between 2009-2010 and indicate that 18.9% of those questioned were born in Ecuador – in third place after Colombians (25.9%) and Brazilians (24.3%). When Rene Ramirez, Ecuador’s Minister of Planning & Development (SENPLADES), visited the “Casa Ecuatoriana”  on Tuesday 17th May (the evening before his speech at the London School Of Economics) he was thus acknowledging the size and importance of his nation’s expatriate community in the UK. As Jorge Moreno, Coordinator of SENAMI (the National Migrant Secretariat) commented afterwards, it enabled them to learn more about the processes being implemented back home and also to inform the Minister about their own needs and concerns. SENAMI is based in Kings Cross and provides advice on a wide range of issues such as Immigration Law, Employment, English courses and Computing workshops. The role of SENPLADES is to “administer and co-ordinate the ‘Decentralized National System of Participatory Planning’ as a means of achieving integral development at a sectorial and territorial level”.

At the Casa Ecuatoriana, Minister Ramirez began by referring to the referendum on political reform which had taken place ten days previously, on May 7th. The two most controversial amendments to the Constitution will (according to “The Economist” magazine) give President Rafael Correa “broad new powers over the courts and media, outlaw unjustified wealth, make it easier for prosecutors to hold criminal suspects without trial and require owners of banks & media to divest their holdings in other industries”.  BBC News described the President’s margin of victory as “slimmer than first expected”. Mr Ramirez ,  however, asserted that “Just 2% of the fortune held by the rich elite in Ecuador” would resolve the problem of poverty in the country and furthermore that among the main challenges facing the government were the “restructuring of the judicial system and the establishment of a law to guarantee the media will be both independent and fulfil a social function”.

These were themes which also featured in his speech on “The Development of Good Living: A Social Transformation Agenda in Ecuador” at the LSE the following day to an audience of around 90 people. His intention , he declared, was to initiate a “frank dialogue” regarding the alternative to the concepts of development and the “liberal utility model” which had prevailed in Ecuador prior to the changes introduced in the 2008 Constitution.  A new philosophy would be created whereby society would no longer be bourgeois, the corporative state would be dismantled, neo-liberalism would be rejected and “buen vivir” would replace “consumption of income”. He recognised that this could not be achieved overnight and that even in the post neo-liberal era the country couldn’t escape from being an exporter of raw materials (mainly petroleum, but also many others such as fish and timber). It was essential to recover the sovereignty of the state – principally over non-renewable resources – and to decorporatize the neo-liberal system. One of the obvious elements of “popular capitalism” and the “socialism of the market”, he emphasized, was the democratisation of property. The economic model would be bio-socialism and popular power. The concept of liberty implies “not only non-interference but also non-domination”, the decentralization of power, a more direct and deliberative democratic arrangement and the “decolonisation of social relations”.

In a report on behalf of the Society For International Development, Catherine Walsh (a faculty member at the Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar) wrote that “Buen Vivir” could be approximately translated as “living well” or “collective well-being”. Over the last decade, she pointed out,”Latin America has seen a shift in the notion of development from economic progress towards a more humanistic view focused on the individual and the quality of life”. These sentiments were very much echoed at the LSE by Minister Ramirez when reflecting on the fact that “ we have lived in a world where the indigenous people are considered above all as a completely inferior class”. Society should be “de-patriarchialized”, the  country’s economy “de-mercantalized” and the State must move from “oligarchic to pluri-national”. He was very much in favour of the construction of Latin-American integration being an inherent facet of Ecuador’s political strategy. The country’s best crude oil  (mostly under the ground in the Yasumi National Park), he noted, comprised 20% of its reserves and was worth $7,000 million. Leaving it there exemplified Ecuador’s commitment to bio-diversity. It is “the only nation on the planet that has incorporated a declaration on the ‘Rights Of Nature’ into its Constitution”. While in the UK, Mr Ramirez has also been interviewed by the “Financial Times” and participated in a conference at the University of Cambridge.






Filed under: Politics | Posted on May 24th, 2011 by Colin D Gordon

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