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Geopolitics

Rafael Correa, A Reminder Why Latin America Needs Term Limits

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa insists he will retire from politics when his term ends. Yet he has spent the past year lobbying to end presidential term limits, which a loyal parliament has now granted. Does he have a hidden agenda to remain in power?

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Dec. 10
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Dec. 10
Marcelo Ostria Trigo

-OpEd-

QUITO — Ecuador's parliament voted earlier this month to amend the constitution and end presidential term limits, a drastic step that critics warn is terrible for democracy. Voters were told that the move would not benefit current President Rafael Correa because he has pledged not to stand for reelection in 2017, but he was the one to mobilize the effort, and who's to say he wouldn't take four years off and then run again.

Sensing that Correa is being disingenuous, voters took to the streets in mass protests, which police and soldiers violently repressed. The only other Latin American countries with provisions eliminating presidential term limits are Venezuela and Nicaragua, both ruled by authoritarian, discretionary and kleptocratic governments.

One Ecuadoran opposition leader complained that legislators from his area were prevented from weighing in on the debate, and explained that his objections go beyond the issue of whether President Correa runs for the presidency in 2017. "The only important thing here," he said, "is to defend the principle of democratic alternation, whose importance is illustrated in the experience of many generations across Latin America."

The amendment in Ecuador bucks the Latin American trend to block indefinite reelection of leaders who might be inclined to remain in power for good. Colombia provided the most recent case, when its parliament absolutely prohibited reelection, while the same applies in Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay. A similar initiative was recently introduced in Brazil's congress.

Correa's intentions are unclear, and perhaps that's just his intention. He observed, rather glibly, that parliament had "found it hard" to accept that he would not be a candidate in 2017. The president predicted that his party would nevertheless win the 2017 presidential elections, which would assure the continuation of the populist project he calls Citizens Revolution. It is Ecuador's version of Venzeuela's 21st Century Socialism brand.

As regional analyst Carlos Malamud recently asked, how are we to interpret Correa's comments? Are they tactical, a prudent response at a time when falling commodities prices are threatening his government and complicating its future? Or do they express a legitimate desire to retire from politics for good?

Given his nature, we can practically rule out a permanent political break. Correa considers the Citizens Revolution his own creation, much too precious to be left in anyone else's hands. Unfortunately, beyond the expectations his declarations are meant to shape, it seems that personal rule will once more prevail over institutions in Ecuador.

Being — and staying — in power is a constant of populist regimes and dictatorships. Bolivia is taking similar steps through a referendum that could allow a second reelection. This clearly will benefit the sitting president, Evo Morales, who would remain 15 years in power in addition to the four years that were illegally discounted when he was re-elected in December 2014. The reason, they stated in Bolivia, was that the first presidential years were not in the new Plurinational State of Bolivia but in the old constitutional regime. Call it another take on democracy!

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How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

American and Southwest Airlines have been refusing to allow Cubans on board flights if they've been blacklisted by the government in Havana.

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

Boarding a plane in Camaguey, Cuba

Santiago Villa

On Sunday, American Airlines refused to let Cuban writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez board a Miami flight bound for Havana. It was at least the third time this year that a U.S. airline refused to let Cubans on board to return to their homeland after Havana circulated a government "blacklist" of critics of the regime. Clearly undemocratic and possibly illegal under U.S. law, the airlines want to make sure to cash in on a lucrative travel route, writes Colombian journalist Santiago Villa:

-OpEd-

Imagine for a moment that you left your home country years ago because you couldn't properly pursue your chosen career there. It wasn't easy, of course: Your profession is not just singularly demanding, but even at the top of the game you might not be assured a stable or sufficient income, and you've had to take on second jobs, working in bars and restaurants.

This chosen vocation is that of a writer or journalist, or perhaps an artist, which has kept you tied to your homeland, often the subject of your work, even if you don't live there anymore.

Since leaving, you've been back home several times, though not so much for work. Because if you did, you would be followed in cars and receive phone calls to let you know you are being watched.

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