Ecuador has a ‘narco-banker government’: Arauz

The following is an interview with Andres Arauz, former left-wing presidential candidate for the Correista UNES alliance in 2021. This interview originally appeared in Nodal.

Why do you call the government of Guillermo Lasso a government of narco-bankers?

Let’s start with the revelation, by the media allied to Lasso himself, that his brother-in-law Danilo Carrera, chairman of Banco Guayaquil, has ties to sectors of the Albanian mafia, a criminal drug organization that present in the Ecuador, and they have designated people within Ecuador’s public companies and ministries. The Prosecutor’s Office even raided the presidential palace itself looking for evidence of this corruption and called the case the “encuento” case, alluding to Guillermo Lasso’s second-round slogan calling himself the “encuentro” candidate (coming together). The Lasso family, public officials, financial institutions, mafias, and other criminals, are involved here. The Prosecutor’s Office has decided to reopen the case that was closed by Lasso himself two years ago, and congress is also investigating this. This could end in the impeachment of Guillermo Lasso as President. 

Why am I talking about a government of narco-bankers? Lasso’s narrative (during the elections) was that Ecuador was full of drug traffickers, it turns out that those who were full of drug traffickers were the financial institutions that he owned. The country has civil servants who, for the most part, are honest people; teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen, and soldiers. The problem is not the people. The problem is that we are led by a banker president linked to these organized mafias.

Can you refresh us a bit about all the links between the president and tax havens?

Lasso, like most of the Latin American financial elites, has hidden his fortunes abroad: In the Cayman Islands, in Panama, in Florida, Miami, Dakota, in the British Virgin Islands. But in addition to all this, Lasso owns a bank in Panama, the Banisi bank, which contributes to capital flight and tax evasion. This bank was created in Panama along with another bank that Lasso founded on the island of Montserrat to evade Ecuadorian regulations and be able to capture deposits from Ecuador, but without complying with Ecuadorian legislation. 

On Lasso’s official trips abroad, and particularly to the United States, he is usually accompanied by Danilo Carrera. This is his brother-in-law, but he is also the president of the Banco de Guayaquil board of directors, a person extremely trusted by Lasso. It makes no sense for a private bank official to be on an official Ecuadorian government trip, but it turns out that this banker, Danilo Carrera, also has another network of offshore companies abroad. Carrera is a close friend of a person named Rubén Chérez who has already been sentenced in Ecuador for drug trafficking, he also operated a mafia network for the sale of government jobs with the help of the Albanian mafia, a transnational criminal organization that has a leading role in the export of drugs from South America to Europe. Lasso, his family, and those close to him, make up this government of narco-bankers.

All of this is happening at a time of extreme political weakness following his catastrophic defeat last month in the local elections. The presidential elections are in 2025. Can you survive that long when the country is also mired in a serious economic and social crisis?

Unfortunately, Lasso can survive two more years with the support of the hegemonic media, the police, and the armed forces, and the influence of the United States embassy that has recently allocated a budget of 100 million dollars, through the USAID office of transition initiatives, to try to sustain his government by influencing the media, social organizations and political parties, seeking to divide and conquer. 

The one who will not be able to survive two more years is the Ecuadorian people and the best demonstration of this is the homicide rate in the country, the highest in history, and the migration rate, that is, the rate of departure of Ecuadorians. The exodus of Ecuadorians in 2023 has exceeded the exodus of other sister countries in the region that are facing an economic blockade, financial sanctions, and attacks of all kinds. 

The worst tragedy is in the Darien jungle between Colombia and Panama where Ecuadorians are crossing on foot with the intention to seek an opportunity in the North. We have a chronic recession, an unemployment crisis, a public health crisis. Lasso has instead focussed on political persecution, while small businesses are forced to pay extortion money to criminal gangs to avoid being attacked. 

Lasso was the main person responsible for the banking crisis in the 90s that led to the dollarization of the Ecuadorian economy. And yet, when the 2021 elections came, he was democratically elected. It would seem that something is failing in Ecuadorian society.

Memory failed in the face of immense power of the media and economic elites. There were also mistakes on our part. We must amend the relationship many different sectors of voters, such as  indigenous sectors – CONAIE or Pachakutik – but also other sectors. I think that with the pandemic things have changed a lot. If indeed Congress manages to remove Lasso0, enormous possibilities would open up at a time when the region is once again standing up and making proposals that lead towards integration and the Patria Grande.

Transcribed by Kawsachun News

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