President Touts 'Ecuadorian Miracle' in HKS Forum Address

April 11, 2014
by Robert O'Neill

Boasting of his country’s progress in recent years, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa made an energetic case in support of his policies, during an address Wednesday evening (April 9) at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School. 

Correa, who was first elected in 2006, has faced some criticism in the United States, where his support of Venezuela’s President Maduro (and his predecessor Hugo Chavez) and his criticism of Ecuador’s media have proved controversial. 

Correa’s speech was preceded by a promotional video showing the beauty and stunning diversity of Ecuador’s natural habitat. And the president's talk was illustrated by colorful bar charts and line graphs, highlighting the achievements of his tenure. 

Between 2007 and 2013, Correa explained, 1.13 million Ecuadorians were lifted from poverty, and the incidence of extreme poverty fell from 16.9 percent to 8.6 percent and growth averaged 4.2 percent per year. The country also claims the lowest unemployment rate in the region, 4.1 percent, and according to a UN development report, is one of three countries with the greatest upward mobility. 

Correa made no apologies for his socialist policies, claiming they had achieved success where the “long and dark period of neo-liberal policies” had not. 

“For us, labor enjoys supremacy over capital,” Correa said. “The great challenge facing humanity in the 21st century is to achieve the supremacy of human beings over capital with societies dominating markets, not markets dominating societies. The market is a wonderful servant, but it is a terrible master.” 

Correa also touted his political party’s role in bringing stability to the country after a decade of turmoil in which the country saw a half-dozen heads of state. The party has won ten consecutive elections, Correa said, and enjoys an approval rating of about 80 percent. 

“Democracy has been firmly established in Ecuador,” Correa said. “Not only democracy in the formal sense, but real democracy, in terms of people’s access to rights, equal opportunities, and dignified living conditions. This is the so-called ‘Ecuadorian Miracle.’” 

But Correa’s commitment to freedom of expression and his strong support for other regional powers were challenged during the customary question and answer session.  He defended his support for Venezuelan President Maduro, saying violent demonstrations were an attempt to destabilize the democratically elected government.

He also shrugged off criticism of his own government’s alleged infringement on the freedom of the press by saying that those freedoms were alive and well. 

Correa’s Harvard visit was part of a larger tour of the United States, which will include more visits to universities, including MIT and Yale.

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President Correa at HKS Forum

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa speaks at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, April 9, 2014

“For us, labor enjoys supremacy over capital,” Correa said. “The great challenge facing humanity in the 21st century is to achieve the supremacy of human beings over capital with societies dominating markets, not markets dominating societies. The market is a wonderful servant, but it is a terrible master.”

John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum

A packed John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, April 9, 2014