Ecuador's ex-VP Jorge Glas fights for justice amid right-wing push

Jorge Glas.

November 23 marked the 33rd day of the hunger strike led by Jorge Glas, the former vice-president of Ecuador. His health has deteriorated significantly after his transfer to the Latacunga maximum security prison.

After enduring deplorable conditions, he was rushed into Carlos Andrade Marín hospital in Quito on November 7, but was transferred back to Latacunga afterwards. He has vowed to continue his hunger strike against his continued persecution, and that of ex-president Rafael Correa and other ministers and political figures who played an instrumental role in the Correa-led pro-poor Citizens’ Revolution over the past decade.

Glas was Ecuador’s vice-president from 2013 till last year. Considered one of the most loyal and ideologically aligned supporters of Correa, Glas served as his vice-president from 2013-17, as well as coordinating the ministry for strategic sectors from 2010-12.

He was responsible for building renewable energy projects, such as the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant — the largest energy project in Ecuador’s history.

Last year, he was elected on a ticket with the Correa-endorsed presidential candidate Lenin Moreno. But in office, Moreno broke with the polices of Correa. Glas openly opposed Moreno’s growing alliance with some of the country’s most right-wing political figures, as well as adopting a more neoliberal political and economic agenda.

Moreno, who blamed the Citizens’ Revolution for allowing the alleged misuse of funds and corruption within state institutions, used the corruption allegations to remove Glas from office. In December last year, Glas was sentenced to six years in jail.

The accusations of corruption against Glas are regarded by supporters as part of the strategy of “lawfare” waged against left-wing and progressive leaders across Latin America. It is viewed as part of an attempt to erase more than a decade of economic, social and political gains.

The accusations against Glas are mostly centred on the US$13.5 million he allegedly received from Brazilian construction firm Oberdecht. According to his supporters and legal team, the accusations have little to no hard evidence to them. The legal proceedings are full of irregularities, such as the lack of appeal, a higher-than-normal sentence, and his transfer to a maximum-security prison where his life is in danger due to deteriorating health.

Glas had surrendered himself to the Ecuadorian justice system because, in his own words, “those who are innocent have no reason to flee”.

In August 2017, Glas denounced Moreno in a letter to the president. In response, Moreno removed Glas from all the positions within the ruling party. This triggered a major factional crisis that eventually lead to the resignation of Correa and 23 members of the National Assembly.

The Correa administration implemented more than a decade of progressive reform that lifted 2 million people out of poverty, significantly reduced income inequality, created political stability, reclaimed the oil revenue for investment into health, education and infrastructure, and helped bring Ecuador onto the world stage by offering asylum to Julian Assange.

These are the “crimes” for which these leaders are now being unfairly and unjustly persecuted in a politically-motivated witch-hunt backed by the country’s old political and economic elite.

At the same time, Correa himself has been a targeted by the Ecuadorian Supreme Court and the president for his alleged role in the kidnapping of former journalist Fernando Balda. This is despite international security agencies like Interpol having dismissed the Ecuadorian government’s demands to arrest him.