In Ecuador — the government insists — the elections of April 2 were won by “the citizens’ revolution” and lost by the “pelucones.” The “citizens’ revolution is the local name for Rafael Correa’s absolutism. There, whatever that gentleman wants to do is done. “Pelucones” are all those who oppose his will, what in Venezuela are called “the squalids” and in Cuba “worms.”
[Translator’s Note: “Pelucones,” literally “peruked ones” or “wigged ones,” was a derisive name given in South America in the early 1800s to members of the aristocracy.]
But that’s not what happened. According to all symptoms, the opposition won in Ecuador. Quite simply, there was fraud. The trickery was preceded by the prefraud and now we are in the postfraud phase.
Let me explain myself.
The prefraud is the stage when the ideal climate to carry out the deceit is created. Legislation is amended or adapted, the electoral organs are controlled and easily manipulated electronic devices are introduced.
Simultaneously, the independent communications media are silenced and the dictator, disguised as a democratic president, co-opts the legislative and judicial powers to throttle anyone who dares to criticize him. First he drafts an ambiguous legislation, perfectly designed to initiate persecutions, and later he releases the State prosecutors, the way hunters release their hounds, to harass and trap all those who dare to denounce the lack of freedoms. Some of the oppositionists end up in jail or in exile.
Naturally, this creates an atmosphere of terror. Most of the societies subjected to this violence tend to remain silent and obey docilely. Only the boldest and most committed oppositionists stage bare-chested protests. Those who best understand what is happening.
The fraud is the crime committed during the voting process. First, it’s set up by buying some surveys that hail the ruling-party candidate as the virtual winner. Then it’s executed by controlling the voter rolls — the dead continue to vote, virtual citizens are created. But the greatest trick is the sophisticated design of software.
It is possible to gauge the exact percentage needed for victory and where the deciding votes should be placed. The machine interprets the programmed algorithms and offers the requested results in an almost imperceptible manner. This is done in minutes, generally when the electricity is conveniently interrupted.
It’s the same the whole world over, not only in the Third World. In Florida’s Dade County, when a referendum was held to decide the multimillion-dollar future of casinos, two “wrongly programmed” computers reversed the Yes and No votes to bestow victory on those who favored the creation of gambling sites outside the Indian reservations. The machines were found and the results invalidated.
In Ecuador, we are in the postfraud. The electoral organ, obedient to and dependent on the power structure, proclaimed the triumph of Lenín Moreno by a small fraction, so as to give that “victory” a semblance of verisimilitude. Nobody would have believed that the ruling party could win by a wide margin when the forecasts showed that it was going to lose. It was a repeat of the Venezuelan elections in 2013, when the results were rigged to show that Nicolás Maduro had beaten Henrique Capriles, who had clearly prevailed with room to spare.
Postfraud gives the regime enough of a patina of legitimacy to please the international factors. All those elements that prefer stability to the unpredictable and uncomfortable truth that fraud (the probable cause of disturbances) was committed — the U.S. State Department, the Vatican with its Peronist pope, the O.A.S. — feel relieved and don’t hesitate to accept the results. After all, in many elections, such as those in Mexico or Colombia, fraud is also found.
But there’s a difference. In the countries of 21st-Century Socialism (Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua so far), fraud — condemnable in all latitudes — is a tool for the survival of regimes that have nothing to do with the liberal democracies to which those countries (minus Cuba, which is an outright communist dictatorship) claim to belong.
All of them play at being a State of Law, with a Constitution that guarantees freedoms and the separation of powers, with free political parties that participate in open elections, a State where commercial transactions respond to the market and where alternation in power supposedly functions. But everything is a deceitful illusion.
The truth is something I heard some years ago from Salvador Sánchez Cerén, an old former communist guerrilla who is now El Salvador’s president. At that time he was the opposition candidate for vice president. He said — and here I quote from memory — that once his party rose to power, alternation would end. Totalitarian government, like love or like hatred, is forever. As we have seen in Ecuador.
*Journalist and writer. His latest book is the novel A Time for Scoundrels.