Ecuador’s Tax Evading Oligarchs Try to Reconquer the Nation

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Ecuador’s Tax Evading Oligarchs Try to Reconquer the Nation

Ecuador chooses Sunday between a socialist or a right-wing banker in tight presidential vote

Former vice president Lenin Moreno, left, and wealthy banker Guillermo Lasso, right

Ecuador Presidential candidates: Former vice president Lenin Moreno, left, and wealthy banker Guillermo Lasso, right. Ecuador’s fiercely contested presidential race is likely to go down to the wire as the nation votes, Sunday, April 2.

The democratic elections of President Rafael Correa in Ecuador have enraged the oligarchs, particularly the wealthiest bankers who ruled and predated on the nation for so many decades.  That predation led to a massive banking crisis led by fraudulent elite bankers.  Ecuadorians fled the nation in record numbers.  Ecuador suffered the highest percentage of emigration in Latin America.  Political crises became the norm, with a series of presidents forced to resign within months.  Correa and his reform party, Alianza PAIS (AP), changed all this.

Correa has served his full elected terms of office largely because he met his campaign promises to more than double expenditures on education, health, and infrastructure that have transformed Ecuador and substantially reduced poverty, unemployment, and inequality.  Ecuador’s democracy is real.  When rival parties won elections in a number of Ecuador’s largest cities, there was a normal, peaceful transition of power to those parties.  Ecuador has several major political parties and employs a common democratic means of determining whether the first round of the election results produce such a dominant winner that no run-off election is required.  Despite the fact that Mr. Moreno, the AP candidate for the presidency, came within a razor-thin margin of reaching that decisive plurality in the first round, the government required a run-off election in accordance with the law. 

The AP’s reforms were so successful that immigration to Ecuador exceeded emigration from Ecuador.  The AP reformed banking to reduce the frauds by elite bankers that drove Ecuador’s financial crisis.  The oligarchs and bankers have been weakening the Ecuadorian economy by moving their wealth to offshore tax havens. The AP has adopted legislation to limit such tax evasion. 

The oligarch’s candidate in the run-off election is Mr. Lasso.  He is a wealthy banker who runs a bank in Panama that is a leader in aiding Ecuador’s oligarchs to evade taxation through offshore tax havens.  Lasso’s platform is the standard right-wing recipe that caused Ecuador’s recurrent economic, social, and political crises.  Lasso proposes tax cuts for the wealthy, large cuts to education, health, and infrastructure, and financial deregulation.

Lasso complains of Ecuador’s (small) budget deficit, but he is a leading cause of that deficit.  He is under investigation by Ecuador’s equivalent of the IRS for aiding tax evasion.  In addition to Lasso’s Panamanian bank that leads his efforts to help the wealthy evade taxes, investigative reporters have found that Lasso runs a maze of 49 companies to aid tax evasion. 

Most Americans are appalled that President Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns.  Lasso has deliberately weakened Ecuador’s economy by profiting from helping thousands of Ecuador’s wealthiest citizens evade taxation.  In a recent plebiscite, Ecuadorians adopted a law that America should adopt as a model.  It bans public officials from having assets or capital in tax havens.  They have one year to bring home their money from the tax havens or leave office.  Lasso and his supportive band of tax-evading oligarchs are desperate to retake control of Ecuador so that they can destroy this reform and continue to evade taxation.

William K. Black

William K. Black

William K. Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A former bank regulator who led investigations of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, he is the author of the book "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." Follow him on Twitter:  @WilliamKBlack

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