Pascual del Cioppo, President of Ecuador’s Social Christian Party (Partido Social Cristiano, PSC) discusses the party’s beliefs and achievements, the potential for Guayaquil to serve as a development model for the whole country, and the best road ahead to sustain the city’s economic and social wellbeing.
You and Mayor of Guayaquil Jaime Nebod laid on a welcome dinner in honour of two former presidents – Andrés Pastrana de Colombia and Armando Calderon of El Salvador – and of the members of the General Assembly of the Union of Latin American Parties (Unión de Partidos Latinoamericanos, UPLA). What benefits do such events bring to the City of Guayaquil?
First we wanted to express our gratitude – as the Mayor of Guayaquil and the President of the PSC, who is in turn a member of the UPLA – to the members of this organization for choosing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the UPLA in Guayaquil. They chose Guayaquil because the city follows the model UPLA proposed concerning the development of states where it is represented electorally. Guayaquil, with the way it works and the municipal tax principles introduced by the mayors Febres Cordero and Jaime Nebod, has become the example to follow for municipalities governed by parties belonging to ULAP. It is also a model that can be applied to create modern states and bring development to the countries across Latin America. So UPLA members chose Guayaquil, not only for Jaime Nebod’s leadership in Ecuador, but also because of the recognition that his work has in Latin America. For some of the UPLA’s member parties’ mayors, it was in their best interests to get to know Guayaquil, talk to Jaime Nebod and share experiences with him.
What are the objectives and achievements of the UPLA?
The main reason the UPLA was founded 20 years ago was because the region needed a union of democratic parties that believed in the social market economy, and not extreme capitalism, socialism or state control as the way to govern nations. This formed the basis of creating the UPLA, which has members in almost all Latin American countries and has new parties wanting to join the organization with each passing day.
All UPLA member parties share the same philosophy. We have been able to assist and advise members in their work as political parties in organizing teaching and training seminars and workshops, which are particularly aimed at young people, women and officials who have been elected by our parties as mayors, governors and even presidents of the republic. We are honoured that some UPLA board members have become presidents of the republic in their respective countries.
The UPLA is organized internationally, and we are members of the International Democrat Union (IDU), which is the international association of political parties that share the same political philosophy.
From your position in the UPLA, how do you view the potential for change in Venezuela, and why would it be a major change for Latin America?
It is essential because it is no secret that for years there has been no democracy in Venezuela, and individual freedom has been restricted to a minimum, so we believe it is time for a change for Venezuelans. I think the government of President Chavez has done a lot of damage not only to Venezuela, but – because of its economic clout – there are many countries in the region where there have been abuses, undemocratic situations have arisen, and they have tried to impose impossible political philosophies, which unfortunately have not been successful. I think today the Venezuelan people deserve a change, a new opportunity, and freedom, which is why we fight constantly. There is no excuse for not giving human beings freedom at its best, as it is a fundamental right from birth to death.
Panama stands out as a leader in the region with regards to job creation. So much so that an international firm gave the example that in Panama you will not find an administrative worker who accepts to earn less than $1,300. What productive model do you want for Ecuador, and what can be learned from the Panamanian model?
In the Panamanian model, the worker’s salary is offset by the cost of the basket of basic goods. Basic needs can be covered when work is decently paid, with regards to wages set by the incumbent government. Our aspiration is that in Ecuador, salaries should be commensurate with the country’s production, so that the purchasing power of someone’s salary doesn’t lose value the moment the employee receives it. That’s what any economy in the world aims for, because when you increase the salaries of employees, but decrease their purchasing power, you doom workers to earning less, and that’s what we are trying to avoid.
But beyond that, what Panama and Chile’s have done well is trade liberalization; when there is no open trade, there is no increase in productivity, and without an increase in productivity there is not increase in employment. The two things go hand in hand, open markets and increased demand and production are why salaries will have a decent purchasing power.
All that is imposed by force has no value; it might work the first two months, but not from the third. A living wage cannot be imposed by decree; it has to come from increased production. This is a global economic policy today, and neither 21st century socialism nor the communist party can deny it. So much so, that China has opened up to international markets and today in many regions of the mainland salaries exceed $400, whereas it’s not long ago when the average wage was $80. This has not happened by decree of the Chinese Communist Party, but by increasing productivity and by the economic growth caused by the opening of their markets.
Before the administration of León Febres Cordero, Guayaquil was ruled by a populism associated with disorder and anarchy. What was the movement that put an end to this situation, and what risks did they run to try to change the situation?
León Febres Cordero imposed order, but order cannot be imposed if there is no leadership, authority and political power. Guayaquil needed Febres Cordero as mayor, as otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible to transform chaos into order. There had to come a Febres Cordero and Jaime Nebod with leadership ability, political power and credibility to restore order in the city, and this was the beginning of the transformation of Guayaquil, and then came the efficiency of which we now boast.
The Social Christian Party has among its ranks, from its leaders to it grass roots members, members trained by the private sector; from workers to employers, we have efficient people, and efficiency is what has made Guayaquil today a city that is admired not only in Ecuador but across the region.
The PSC has identified itself with the number six since 1979. What is the reason behind this symbolism?
In 1979, after the dictatorship, the electoral tribunal assigned us the number six as a political party. Political parties, both old and new, had to re-enrol and the number that was assigned to the Social Christian Party was six. In the political marketing we carried out we discovered that six was the party’s main asset. Surveys undertaken showed that some people in some parts of the country identified the party more with the number six than with its name. But there is something that is amazing: they know that the Six, or the Christian Social Party, are efficient people that give the people what they want and who are willing to work day after day on any service for people. Six is synonymous with service; there may be some aspects they don’t like, but no one can doubt that Six does not stand for efficiency.
Thanks to its public service, people have begun to have the mentality that you have to vote for whoever makes things work, not for ideology. What is the vision that guides your party?
I am not ashamed to say that my party is to the right. There are many right-wing politicians who invent a name; they claim to be in the centre, that they take the good from both the left and the right to make a better match… No doubt there could be some positive ideas in communist or Marxist ideology, but people confuse totalitarianism with the right when it is not. Once in power the political right, not the economic right, is a political philosophy that it yields positive results, if they can implement their policies in an honest and efficient way. For example, in El Salvador for many years and for several administrations, the political right governed with great results until they lost the election after having won five elections in a row. The same has happened in Panama, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, where the right has accumulated consecutive wins for many years. Therefore I’m not ashamed to say that we are to the right.
What is the difference between political and economic right?
The economic right believes that capitalism at any cost, without humanism, is how to bring development to a state. In the political right, we believe that the economy should be a social market; capitalism with a human face. There has to be open trade and increased production, and the private sector should be given the necessary support, but you cannot forget social policies. Without social welfare there can be no peace, no consumption, and human freedoms are constrained. Without social wellbeing, welfare productivity cannot be effective, and that’s the difference; others think only economically and materially, and we combine economics with society, hence the term a social market economy.
The PSC could apply Guayaquil’s successful management model to the rest of the country. Its policies answer the needs and demands of the people. How could Guayaquil’s urban regeneration model be applied on a national scale?
The day that one of the leaders of this development model decides to run for president or the model is accepted by an incumbent politician, will be the day this model becomes successful in Ecuador. The needs Guayaquil had are the same that exist on a national scale, and if Guayaquil could be transformed, then surely the entire country can be too. All that’s missing is the desire to do it. My party lost the opportunity to have Jaime Nebod serve as president. But I think that as soon as Jaime Nebod accepts the presidential candidacy, if he won popular support Ecuador would have the same development model that Guayaquil has enjoyed.
The City of Guayaquil is investing in education through its More Books and More Technology programmes, its English language labs, by repairing schools, and awarding excellence in its Exemplary Youth programme. What vision does the PSC hold for investing in the wellbeing of youth?
When certain economists say that the economy is the backbone of society, we believe that each vertebra represents man’s development – development that is not possible without education. This is a fundamental pillar for a state’s economic development. One of the reasons why we insist on depoliticising education in Ecuador is because we believe education cannot be of high standards if it’s manipulated by politicians – in this case by the left. Nor should it be manipulated by the right. Quality education should be independent of any kind of political influence and should be responsibly handled by the state. This is what Guayaquil has done within its capabilities as a municipality, and the positive results are there. On a national level, we should establish an educational programme to train our youth in values. This is the only proven solution for young people’s morals. And this is what is missing in the national education programme.
According to the PSC, responsible and caring capitalism is the state’s best ally and an example at the local level. This can be seen in the latest potable water contracts signed between Ineragua and the city, which have made service available to more than 150,000 inhabitants. How does your party view the private sector and foreign investment, and how does this differ from the views of the Alianza PAIS party?
When we talk about open trade, we want international investors to come to Ecuador and work seriously and with legal security. If a company comes to offer services and it invests, we must respect the fact that there should be a return on investment. But we must also warn the investor that even though this is a business, we must all win.
The difference with Alianza PAIS is that they shut their doors foreign investment and believe that everything should come from the state. This is an obsolete statist model that oughtn’t even exist anymore. Some socialist governments of this century continue believing that ECLAC’s model is the only one that should be followed in those states that apply Keynesian policies. Spanish ex-President Aznar said that 21st century socialism is nothing more than a repetition of the old version of socialism, but more mundane. These types of models have already been declared obsolete by the rest of the developed world.
In all of Ecuador, Guayaquil has among the fastest growing rates of use and access to telecommunication tools. What does the PSC propose in matters of research and development?
The world has changed and technology belongs to no state alone; it is global. In order for the state to be modern and productive and have a level of social wellbeing, there must be technological development. If technology cannot be produced within the country, then the country must be open to technology imports. We are proactive in this area and in the state’s modernization.
As a student, you had the opportunity to get to know the world of international relations thanks to a scholarship offered by the government of Taiwan to study in the same university that renowned politicians, such as Bill Clinton, attended. What was that experience like and what would your foreign policy be if you were president of the country?
The first thing they taught us was to defend liberty. In Taiwan there was freedom while continental China was restricted; there was a huge difference between the two countries’ development models. Nowadays we see how greater freedom in continental China has led to greater growth, and the people are better off than they were 30 years ago. The essence of what one can learn in foreign educational institutions is the defence of freedom.
Development models weren’t invented by just one person; they are born from the necessity of society that imposes the model by demanding wellbeing from its leaders through decent work. It is society that dictates the rules of the game, and that is where the leader’s ability to take society’s concerns, express them in a model and make that model work, comes into play. That was the development model of the three Asian Tigers: Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Continental China applied the model in its own unique way, and today we can see how successful it’s turned out.
As President of the PSC, in September 2012 you reiterated that the party has never presented blind opposition and that currently the party’s interest lies in reaching the National Assembly. Why did you have to make this clarification and what would your presence in the assembly mean for Ecuador?
Blind opposition is for mediocre politicians. One must take a stand when the development model that one believes in is different to that proposed by the party in power. But opposing everything the incumbent president proposes is mediocre opposition, and the PSC never has followed that line of politics. We have a series of principles and we defend our political philosophy; this is where what we call constructive and positive opposition comes in. Citizens from all over the world are tired of the diatribe of one sector against another, because in order to solve individual problems there must be a debate of ideas and principles, and this is where are. For example, if tomorrow another party’s president says day, we’re not going to say night. There must be coherence, as it is coherence that gives a politician credibility.
The PSC has also declared that one of its goals is to decentralize Ecuador. Why is this so important, and how can it be carried out without conflicting with the central government, such as in the case of Spain?
In Ecuador decentralization is the fundamentally the reason why cities develop. The state cannot centralize and cover the necessities of all people in all regions, since each region has its own unique needs. One region may have solved the problem of potable water while its neighbouring region hasn’t. The solutions are different because the needs are different. Municipal administration centralised in the state slows down city development.
Guayaquil has demanded decentralisation through politics, and this has enabled the city to grow. You only have to compare Guayaquil with other cities that still have the same old problems with funding and how they wait for a solution from the central government. I believe that in Spain decentralisation has produced positive results in many cases, but what seems dangerous is Catalonia’s independence movement. One thing is decentralisation, and another is independence. But that is an issue that rests upon the Catalans, the rest of the Spanish and the result of a possible referendum. In our case we’re not asking for independence; we simply want decentralisation.
The relation between Spain and Latin America is an historic one, and Spain has cemented its position as the main European investor in the region over the last few decades. What investment opportunities does Guayaquil offer private Spanish companies?
There has been a lot of investment so far. For example Movistar has been one of the biggest investors in Guayaquil. It is Spanish capital that is trying to develop the main deep-sea port here, which will allow Guayaquil to become a transhipment port for intercontinental containers. There has been a good deal of Spanish investment in smaller private industries, which we hope will continue despite the crisis in Spain.
President Rafael Correa has announced that the Prince of Asturias and a delegation of Spanish companies will visit Ecuador on October 4-5 . Why doesn’t Ecuador receive greater Spanish investment and how important is it to increase business ties between the two countries?
We do not receive more investment from Spain nor from any other country because on a national level, there is still some hesitance when it comes to legal security in the country. If the government solved this and generated greater confidence, the situation would change. One of the ways to generate higher investor confidence is by being open to signing free trade agreements, because these are one of the best ways to lend security to international investors. Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia’s visit affords Spanish investors the opportunity to come and be heard by the government.
Spain will always be grateful to the Ecuadorians who went to work in Spain during the years of economic growth. Now it’s the turn of the Spanish entrepreneurs to look for new business and investment horizons. What final message would you like to send about Guayaquil and its entrepreneurial spirit?
I’d insist that Guayaquil has its own agenda, which is being open to international markets. I don’t know of any Spaniard that has come to invest, work or live in Ecuador and had a bad time of it. The Spanish community in Guayaquil has grown significantly in recent times, owing to the understanding between the city’s attitude and the Spanish investors’ way of thinking. The confidence that Spanish investors have lent to the city is proof that in Guayaquil things are done correctly and will continue as such.