Ecuador: The fascistisation of the state and the myth of imperialism’s “war on drugs”

Cristian Romero – Bolshevik Militant Tendency (Argentina)

Humberto Rodrigues – Communist Party (Brazil)

Daniel Noboa, the President of Ecuador, established a state of emergency with a curfew against the entire population of the country, decreeing that Ecuador is in a state of ” internal armed conflict” and ordered the Armed Forces to “execute military operations to neutralize” criminal gangs.

 Noboa’s move came after armed men took over the facilities of the Guayaquil state channel TC Televisión and the university. On Sunday, under strange conditions, it was found that the head of the largest drug gang had escaped from a prison in Guayaquil. This was Adolfo Macías, alias Fito, drug lord of the Los Choneros gang.

 These criminal acts are used by the Noboa government to change the political regime under cover of an emergency, reinforce the repressive apparatus and extend control over the entire exploited and oppressed population. Noboa is an Ecuadorian with ideas close to the dominant ideas in the US bourgeoisie, born in Florida, right-wing and with dictatorial aspirations, and recently elected as a continuator of the previous president, involved in a deep political crisis. Now, conveniently, he carries out a kind of ‘self-coup’ within his government to centralize political power and carry out radical measures against Ecuadorian workers. The war that originally was said only to be against drugs and drug traffickers, becomes a “state of war” that turns against the entire population.

 A “Drug war led by the United States transformed Ecuador into a new crack for cocaine distribution”

(UOL: Drug war, high poverty and political chaos: understand the crisis in Ecuador).

 After almost half a century of ‘war against drugs’ policy, in the international division of the market, Ecuador has become one of the main centres in the world for the distribution of this merchandise, especially since the betrayal of President Rafael Correa by his vice-president Lenin Moreno, orchestrated by imperialism.

The so-called “illegal” drugs, as merchandise, are a fundamental component of the accumulation of imperialism worldwide. It also feeds financial capital through laundering routes. All of this occurs in the context of the “war on drugs” promoted by imperialism, which in reality protects the drug business and the control that the imperialist system exercises over them.

In the past, even in the era of liberal capitalism, drugs were a central factor of imperialist accumulation and the dominant colonial powers such as England sought to dump the cost of it on oppressed countries such as China during the Opium Wars, such as Marx himself analysed in the 19th century:

 “The harmful consequences for China were economic, political and social, one of the main ones being the destabilization of the Chinese government. The resistance and non-compliance with the emperor’s decrees and restrictions by the Chinese authorities to prevent the growth of imports of opium generated even more restrictive and punitive measures, which continued to be breached. All this culminated in a scenario of greater corruption [demoralization] of the imperial authorities, customs officials and mandarins in general, by the English. This corruption, which infiltrated the heart of the celestial bureaucracy and destroyed the foundations of the patriarchal order, was smuggled into China along with the opium boxes from the British transporters anchored in Whampoa

(Marx, 2016g, p. 113)

As occurred in the First Opium War, and Marx noted in In the Revolution in China and Europe, of June 14, 1853, “factors of dissolution were forged [that] simultaneously influenced finance, traditional customs, morality, industry and the political structure of China, reaching its apogee under the fire of English cannons.” (Marx, 2016j, p. 34). Both the first and second wars contributed to overthrowing the authority of the emperor and imperial power, while increasing the authority of opium, especially trafficking and smuggling, as manifestations of British imperial authority.” (Pedro Henrique Antunes da Costa, and Kíssila Teixeira Mendes, Anti-prohibitionism, Marx and The Drug Wars: Anticolonialism, Anti-imperialism and Anti-prohibitionism).

Big capital has never opposed drugs; On the contrary, they are in the DNA of capital accumulation in a broad sense, not just an economic one. Historically, capitalism transformed drugs into a commodity for global trade. In 19th century China, British colonialist policy destroyed Chinese society to subject it to its interests. In China, the effect of opium on society, the economy and politics was operated from without and was combined with a war from without, under the cannons of Great Britain and for the confiscation of a part of Chinese territory by the occupation of Hong Kong, for the crown and British capital.

In the epoch of imperialism, that is, in the highest phase of capitalism, already in the 20th century, drug policy became infinitely more complex and profitable. Through a double standard, drug trafficking is used and supposedly combated.

The “war on drugs” serves as an instrument to increase the social control of the United States over oppressed peoples in general and within nations whose governments are puppets of imperialism, as a form of social control of the working population and its youth by part of repressive military and police apparatuses.

American imperialism is based on dependent semi-colonialism, on the control already exercised over oppressed countries through their puppet governments, through which policies of military, legal and police indoctrination, arms trade and private training services are applied, deepening economic and social dependence, the co-optation of fractions of delinquent youth and, finally, the tasks of subjugation of the people that the colonial cannons carried out through war between nations, such as between Great Britain and China, were replaced by political fascists and the civil war of the state against the population. Like what is happening now in Ecuador in an acute way, but which is also repeated in almost all oppressed countries.

 Although the escalation of violence is not new in the Ecuadorian political and social situation, it is very strange how systematic violence and the drug crisis broke out in the country with spectacular and literally media events: the occupation of television stations and universities, to create a chaos that would justify, in the eyes of common sense and the international media, a simplified and repressive solution to the crisis.

Today in Latin America, under the control of various imperialist factions, the drug trafficking business grows, leading to the mafia-like decomposition of the state machinery of Latin American countries. Imperialism also uses drug trafficking politically by extending controls from the capitalist mafia states in the so-called “war on drugs” or by promoting and taking advantage of drug crises to give itself political cover that allows it to deepen control over the Latin American capitalist states. All of the above gives a leap in quality in the need that US imperialism has to shield Latin America from the influence of the BRICS.

The drug crisis is taking a leap in quality in Ecuador and the right is taking advantage of it to bring fascist-like norms to the capitalist state. The growth of drug trafficking is linked to the economic liquidation of the entire Ecuadorian economy (and in several other parts of the West) under the policy of neoliberalism/ultraliberalism, fully impacting the social and political level in Ecuador.

“Ecuador became a sanctuary for organized crime. It has been mutating from a transit country to an international narcotics distribution platform. In that sense, it is considered one of the processing countries in Latin America, located in second place below Brazil in the export of cocaine to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.”

We must measure the weight that this factor of the criminal economy has as a whole in a country on the scale of Ecuador.

 This economic trend is now concentrating to become political, pointing to the growing weight of drug trafficking in Ecuador’s own political life.

The narcotics crisis, an event provoked to justify the closure of the regime that the previous banker president failed to achieve?

This chaotic situation was created by the policies of the IMF and the War on Drugs, defended and executed by neoliberal governments from Lenin Moreno to the banker Guillermo Lasso.

Now, continuing this Noboa aims to make a leap in quality from previous attacks against the population through a series of repressive instruments declaring a state of exception, which includes the possibility of the military entering prisons and the mobilization of the army to control the streets, including a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. It is obvious that drug trafficking would never have had the development it has in Ecuador if there had not been for the complicity of the organs of the state, the same ones that are now called to combat drug trafficking itself. Noboa came to government with the support of right-wing forces in Ecuador (see

Now Noboa is joined by the support of Correismo in his campaign for the fascistisation of the state in Ecuador. In turn, the Puebla group made up of leaders of “progressivism” including the current governments of Bolivia and Brazil, says it supports Correa ‘s message.

The policy of imperialism, especially that of the United States, of protecting and promoting drug trafficking through its “war on drugs” policy leads to a mafia-like decomposition of the Latin American capitalist states, which makes them more manipulable for imperialism itself, just as at the time, the opium wars favoured the social disintegration of China in the face of British colonial expansion.

Through the policy of war on drugs and the manipulation of drug trafficking, an arm of big capital, what Great Britain developed during the opium wars to dominate politically and socially, reverse the trade deficit and colonize China has evolved, specialized and professionalized in unprecedented proportions.

If in China, one of the political functions of encouraging opium drug trafficking by British imperialism was to demoralize and weaken the Chinese imperial government in the 19th century, now, in Ecuador, imperialism’s encouragement of the country to become a source of narcotics is followed by encouraging the conversion of Ecuador’s right-wing government into a fascist government.

The farce of the “war on drugs”, converted into US state policy, which turns drug trafficking into one of the main sources of global income for imperialism, has already been widely debunked in works such as “The Big White Lie” by Michael Levine, linked the DEA’s action in the region; “The politics of heroin: CIA complicity in the global drug trade” by Alfred McCoy, on Southwest Asia and “The CIA as organized crime: how Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World,” by Douglas Valentine.

In turn, the mass organizations of Ecuadorian workers react as they can:

“Faced with the outbreak of violence in Ecuador, CONAIE [Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, the largest indigenous organization in Ecuador] called on indigenous communities and nationalities to keep community guards active, controlling access to their territories. The organization needs to build national unity, with all sectors of society, to overcome the current crisis.”

 “These governments prioritized their particular agendas to favour large economic groups, at the expense of the poverty and suffering of the majority of the population.”

In 2019, CONAIE led a series of protests against the then president, Lenín Moreno. Elected in 2017 with the support of former progressive president Rafael Correa, Moreno broke with his predecessor and moved closer to the Ecuadorian bourgeoisie. Thus, he attempted to impose the measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which included cuts in government subsidies, the dismantling of labour laws and the privatisation of public services.

Since then, the neoliberal agenda has been maintained by successive governments in Ecuador. Former banker Guillermo Lasso won the 2021 elections. Just over a year later, he too faced a series of protests, again led by CONAIE. This time, they were pressing for a reduction in fuel prices, among other social demands. The crisis worsened again last year, when Lasso dissolved the National Assembly (parliament) and called new elections in a climate of imminent social upheaval in the country, with the right-wing Daniel Noboa, born in Florida (USA), winning the presidential elections in November 2023. He defeated the progressive candidate Luisa González. The electoral dispute took place under a climate of violence. In August, gangs shot and killed presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

 Noboa’s current self-coup is also the favourable outcome of the political crisis that broke out in the country as soon as it was revealed that the banker president Guillermo Lasso was at the centre of the international corruption plot that was called the Pandora Papers (El País: The offshore network of Guillermo Lasso, the banker who became president of Ecuador, Mandatário got rid of most of his companies in tax havens before becoming president).

To escape political pressure, Lasso dissolved the Ecuadorian parliament and called elections that were won by the candidate indicated by him, Noboa.

 It is the task of the exploited and oppressed of the countryside and the city in Ecuador to prepare to defend themselves more without putting trust in bourgeois leaderships, to make a united front with everyone against the escalation of state and parastatal repression with the CONAIE and Correismo but criticize him for supporting Noboa’s self-coup. Correismo’s “progressive” force seems to express a combination of political imbecility and cowardice that gives in to Noba’s pro-fascist politics.

It is therefore the task of the exploited and oppressed of Ecuador not to give any confidence to the repressive policies of the capitalist state, surpassing its reformist leaderships such as Correismo while preparing to provide an independent solution to the crisis that the growth of drug trafficking is coming from, and their accomplices from the whole of imperialism and the bourgeoisie of Ecuador.

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