Or is there?
According to a former British ambassador, the C.I.A. rounded up $87 million to "swamp" Ecuador´s president Rafael Correa in his re-election bid February 17. Instead, Correa swamped his opponents, 56% to 23% for the second-place finisher, conservative banker and apparent C.I.A. choice, Guillermo Lasso. Six other candidates split the difference.
As our prior post discussed, (i) the failed attempt to infiltrate Ecuador´s computerized vote system on election day, (ii) the 73,000 signatures fraud last year, and (iii) the 800,000 attempts to disrupt the web site of the governmental body in charge of Ecuador´s elections -- all point to the same conclusion: the boys and girls of the C.I.A. need to have the facts of life explained to them.
Reality Therapy Time 1
1. You take out your wallet and
2. offer Guillermo Lasso 10 dollars.
3. Guillermo Lasso takes your 10 dollars and
4. says "Thank you."
5. Conclusion: Guillermo Lasso now has 10 dollars more than before you showed up.
What the C.I.A. and its D.C. campaign consultants -- whose B-squad services are as ridiculously priced as the Vienna, Virginia homes they live in -- fail to understand: Guillermo Lasso is a banker. He has spent his life making money; he is a Money Guy. He would not -- indeed, cannot -- change his perspective and values overnight by being elected president. In fact, the presidency for him would be just one more opportunity -- a golden one -- to do what he has always done. If you are unsure what that is:
Return to Square 1. You take out your wallet ...
I have seen hundreds of Money Guys win elections or appointments to public office. Not a single one was an exception to the above rule.
That is not to say there are no exceptions.
FDR was one. His fellow oligarchs called him a traitor to his class. They still gag on their cloudberry liqueur whenever his name is mentioned. Ditto Alexis de Tocqueville. I think the Kennedys were well on the way. In truth, it will probably require that type of exceptional person to stop kicking the can down the street and do what must be done to turn America around (see this blog, The Big Movida: The Third American Revolution).
Lasso proclaimed himself and his party, CREO, to be the second political force in Ecuador. Obviously, he intends to hang around. Ergo, this question: did Lasso, as the French say, "a flairé le filon" -- smell the vein of gold? $87 million isn´t to be sniffed at.
On election night, CREO hung out its sign, "Open for Business." C.I.A., if last week you prepped a Trojan horse to subvert the Ecuadorian election, and if today you going to CREO, you are -- once again -- backing the wrong horse.
Where will bankrolling Lasso and CREO take you? You don´t know?
Go back to Square 1. You take out your wallet and ...
Our post of August 27, 2012, months before the official campaign season started:
"Lasso`s media timing, style, and message closely resemble those of Jeff Bingaman`s senatorial campaign of 1982 in New Mexico. Bingaman did what everybody said was impossible: he defeated the internationally known and highly popular Harrison Jack Schmitt, incumbent senator and former astronaut. Diogenes in search of one good man is the powerful, unconscious archetype that Bingaman and Lasso activated ... "
Phase 1, Lasso´s pre-campaign, was superb. He ran top quality TV spots -- over $5 million worth -- avoiding political issues and creating a warm public image, exactly as did Jeff Bingaman.
Lasso´s problem was Phase 2, when the official campaign started. Forget Diogenes -- Lasso and his strategists never touch the stuff. Simply put, Lasso´s Phase 2 was as exciting as a wet tortilla. He had nothing to say. He droned on and on about how he would cut taxes, thereby evincing a confusion common to first-time election candidates everywhere: he assumed his agenda was everybody else´s.
Clumsy and naive campaigning aside, Lasso has another weakness which is as enduring as it is fatal. It is why I don´t creo in CREO.
* * *
It is 1999. You are an Ecuadorian. After a one-week bank holiday, you get up early, hop in the car and speed to your friendly neighborhood bank to take out money for food and rent. You see a line of people and discover
"the government imposed a widespread freeze of bank deposits ... Time deposits and repurchase agreements were locked for at least one year and saving deposits in excess of US$500 and one half of checking account balances were frozen for six months ... "
You look in your empty wallet, then ... you look in it again. You don´t believe it -- it can´t be true.
But wait -- The Big Surprise had only just begun:
"The vast majority of bank deposits only began to be returned to their owners a year later, when the sucre was replaced by the dollar as the official currency of Ecuador. The exchange rate of the refund was 25.000 sucres per dollar -- whereas at the moment the deposits were frozen, the exchange rate was 10.350 sucres per dollar. In other words, the deposits of the public were pulverized and the ´freezing of deposits´ in reality represented a transfer of about $2,500,000,000 from the depositors to the banks and to the creditors of the banks who were frequently the same bankers."**
And so, when the bankers finally gave you your money back, it was less than half of what you had given them. The banks were not robbed -- the banks were the robbers. This screwball, quirky turn of events in Ecuador was right out of a play by theater of the absurd dramatist Eugene Ionesco.
Hundreds of thousands of "little people" were economically destroyed. Planeloads and boatloads of them were forced to leave their country to search a livelihood in New Jersey, Madrid and points beyond. Given the sorry state of America´s and Spain´s economies today, thousands have returned home. You think they and their families have forgotten? You think Ecuador has forgotten?
They weren´t the only ones who had to leave. President Jamil Mahuad hightailed it out Ecuador where today he is a wanted man.
There is a direct Mahuad/Lasso connection. Lasso contributed $91,800 to Mahuad´s campaign for president, and subsequently served 37 days in the Mahuad government as Superministro de Economía.
If, today, you bring up the 1999 disaster with the banker Guillermo Lasso, he foams at the mouth, pounds on the desk, bewails to the heavens above and swears before God and country he had nothing to do with The Great Bank Robbery. If interrogated further, he will jump up and down, scream "Enough!"-- that you are "insulting my family!" In fact, there is only one thing Lasso has not done and will never do to get you to stop: offer documentary evidence that he wasn´t among the weasels in tweed suits who made off with your savings.
Guillermo Lasso is a bold-faced liar. How can I make such a statement? Easy.
To force a runoff election, Lasso had to knock Correa below 40% or to close the Correa/Lasso gap to within10%. The opinion polls showed either outcome was manifestly impossible;*** yet Lasso claimed he had done it. He asserted three weeks before the election: "What is certain is I will be in the runoff election." ("Lo que está asegurado es que estoy en segunda vuelta.") Apparently, once wasn´t enough so he repeated the falsehood -- click here In case you missed it, three days before the election, he twittered the same whopper. Makes you wonder what else Lasso is lying about...
In case you think lying is acceptable behavior in politics -- that Lasso´s behavior was nothing more than standard campaign hyperbole -- think again. I worked on campaigns in which our candidates ran against well-known incumbents. As you would expect, we started off trailing in the opinion polls. But unlike Lasso, we did not lie about it. Our hallmark was this announcement by the candidate: "If the election were held today, I would lose by [X percentage]. But the election is not being held today." A political candidate who told the truth: without exception, the next polls showed the voters appreciated it and him.
When Guillermo Lasso turns out the lights and looks at the ceiling, he knows his political movement, CREO, was born in a coffin. Why, then, does he bother? You don´t know?
Return to Square 1. You take out your wallet ...
Lasso keeps in his eyes on the prize, which is not the presidency. As for any lingering hurt feelings or a bruised ego caused by his rejection by the voters, not to worry. He smelled the vein of gold and remains undeterred.
P.S. Conservative Mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot, is undoubtedly the most dangerous presidential contender President Correa´s Alianza País could face in 2017 (Correa cannot run for re-election). Nebot is a highly astute politician. He endorsed Lasso, however -- and this is what counts among political pros -- did not work hard for him. Nebot is also a highly capable administrator. Last year, when the water company Interagua serving Guayaquil announced a rate increase, Nebot announced he was going to terminate their contract: "We are not a colony of anybody." It seems that Interagua decided cowardice was the better part of valor and is now crawdading around, looking for a rock to hide under.
Which brings us to this point. For the C.I.A., it is
Reality Therapy Time 2
At the first hint that Jaime Nebot wants to run for the presidency in 2017, Lasso´s CREO will fold up its tent faster than a Usain Bolt 100-meter dash. Stupified, C.I.A. agents will gaze into their empty wallets, wonder where the money went.
When you hook up with a Money Guy, The Big Surprise keeps coming.
*Shades of French presidential candidate Ségolène Royale, 2007. In one of the most brilliant campaign starts I have ever witnessed, she ran over heavyweights Dominique Strauss-Khan and her own consort, François Hollande (today president of France) to capture her party´s nomination for president. Then ... nothing ... Nothing at all. In the general election against conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, Royale couldn´t get her foot out of her mouth. Particularly grievous was her compulsion to invent foreign policy between pissing and cooking.
**"La gran mayoría de depósitos solo comenzaron a devolverse un año después, una vez adoptada la dolarización, a un tipo de cambio de 25.000 sucres por dólar, mientras que al momento de congelamiento, el tipo de cambio era de 10.350 sucres por dólar. En otras palabras, los depósitos del público se pulverizaron y el ´congelamiento´ de cerca de 2.500 milliones de dólares de los depositantes a los bancos y a los deudores de la banca, estos últimos frecuentemente los mismos banqueros."
Rafael Correa, Ecuador: de Banana Republic a la No República, Random House, 2011, pp. 78-9.
Here is Wikipedia´s cogent summary of the catastrophe:
"The 1998–99 Ecuador banking crisis resulted in about 70% of the country's financial institutions closing. In 1999, economic activity decreased by 7–8% and the currency depreciated by 195%.[clarification needed] Per-capita income in US dollar terms plummeted by 32% during the year. Unemployment increased from 9% to 17% and underemployment increased from 49% to 55%. 1.6 billion dollars of Government of Ecuador funds were used to bail out banks that failed as a result of corrupt practices and mismanagement. The money supply increased at an annual rate of 170% to pay back depositors of failed banks. In March 1999, the government froze bank deposits to avoid hyperinflation. By the end of 1999, President Mahuad's approval rating had dropped to 9%. Unresolved economic, financial and political problems led to massive protests that resulted in his departure from office on January 22, 2000."
***Our post of December 21, 2012: "A nationwide Cedatos-Gallup poll released November 30, 2012 shows Correa with 53%, Guillermo Lasso 22%, and each of the other six presidential candidates with 10% or less." If we knew the score, so did Lasso.