The disputed election of Lenín Moreno as president of Ecuador made his leftist allies very happy in that it broke a string of conservative election wins in Latin America.
Venezuela’s bankrupt strongman Nicolás Maduro hailed Moreno, saying on Twitter, “The Citizen Revolution won.” Bolivia’s socialist leader Evo Morales crowed on Twitter that “21st century socialism always triumphs.” Julian Assange, who five years ago was granted asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy by current Ecuadorian leader Rafael Correa, urged trailing conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso “to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions).”
Moreno’s two-point victory is certainly being celebrated — but also questioned. A quick count by a respected local watchdog found that there was a difference of less than 0.6 percentage points separating the two candidates. The group declined to announce which candidate had the advantage.
In addition, three out of the four exit polls released as voting concluded on Sunday showed Lasso with a lead between three and six points. Exit polls can be wrong, but the one that predicted a Lasso win of six points was spot-on in predicting the results of the first round of voting in February. In that election, leftist Lenín Moreno (yes, his first name was given him for ideological reasons) won 39 percent of the vote, narrowly missing an outright victory that wouldn’t have required a runoff. The final results of that first round were delayed for days, as the government-controlled election machinery stalled and dithered until finally admitting that a runoff was needed.
Even more disturbing was the decision of President Rafael Correa, who handpicked Moreno as his chosen successor, to fire General Luis Castro Ayala as the chief of staff of the Ecuadorean army after the first round. General Castro Ayala is said to have played a crucial role, through his moral influence on the National Election Council, in ensuring an accurate count of the first election round.
The day after the first round of voting, he sent a letter to the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, requesting that it consider its constitutional responsibilities to ensure an accurate count. Following his firing, General Castro Ayala told the media that “the armed forces did not handle the entire chain of custody of the ballots in these last elections” as it is normally charged with doing.
According to an article by journalist Carlos Sánchez Berzaín in Diario las Americas, voter fraud has become a growing problem in Ecuador since Correa took power in 2007:
They have replaced electoral institutions, have appointed and designated officials who are akin to their ideology and are subservient to the regimes thus negating any “impartiality,” have counterfeited electoral registration, have modified voting district’s demographics and the system for tallying the votes and selecting the winners, have allowed voting to take place outside of the country by ineligible foreigners, have manipulated voters’ records.
That is the background that explains why protesters besieged the offices of the National Election Council on Sunday night, demanding more transparency from the bureaucrats inside. Guillermo Lasso, the losing conservative candidate, said he would challenge the results in all of Ecuador’s 24 provinces. “This is very sickening. We’re not going to allow it,” said Lasso, adding that he had shared his concerns with the head of the Organization of American States. He accused Correa of trying to install an “illegitimate” government.
I don’t know if there was actual fraud in Ecuador’s election, but there certainly is enough smoke to merit an arson investigation. Perhaps some whistleblowers will step forward and, like General Castro Ayala, express their concerns. I’d just advise them not to give their information to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. Guillermo Lasso had promised to remove Assange from Ecuador’s embassy in London within 30 days of taking office. If there was fraud in Ecuador’s election, I doubt that Assange is interested in doing much to uncover it.
— John Fund is NRO’s national-affairs correspondent.