NEW YORK – Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno congratulates himself for having kept his country from going the way of Venezuela and scorned the gangsters who, in his opinion, represent the fake socialism of the 21st century.
“We have escaped that fraud, the fake socialism of the 21st century, a socialism that never existed,” the president told EFE in an interview.
“Just the opposite, they are street gangs, mafia groups that do nothing more than corrupt and be corrupted,” he said.
The crisis in Venezuela led by Nicolas Maduro has been a focus of this week’s UN General Assembly, at which Moreno was one of the speakers.
According to Moreno, Ecuador’s plight would have resembled Venezuela’s if it had continued with the policies of his predecessor, Rafael Correa, now accused of corruption in a case related to Brazil’s Odebrecht company.
“Ecuador knew how to get out (of socialism) without traumas... and has now taken the right path forward,” said Moreno, who was vice president during Correa’s term in office.
He gave as an example of the “right path” the trust multinational organizations have shown with their offers of more than $10 billion in credit to invest in development.
One of Moreno’s main challenges is to manage the unprecedented avalanche of Venezuelan migrants arriving in Ecuador – almost half a million up to now – whom he described as “the living dead gazing at the horizon with no idea where they’re going.”
“How great must be the desperation of these poor people who decided to go to countries that might have as many problems as they do?” the president said.
Ecuador is one of the more than 50 governments that recognize as interim president the speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, opposition leader Juan Guaido, and deny Maduro’s legitimacy.
“I definitely believe this fellow (Maduro) must step down from power and pay for his crimes, with no pardon and no forgetting about them,” he said.
Ecuador, he said, has provided more than 500,000 medical visits for Venezuelan migrants, has accepted into its educational system almost 20,000 youths and children, and little by little is absorbing these wanderers into the labor force.
Next week, a census of Venezuelans will start to be taken that will enable the programming and budgeting of aid for this collective.
“The situation isn’t easy. They are undoubtedly altering the social, economic and in some respect political circumstances of the country. But the solidarity we must show them is more important,” he said.
Since Aug. 28, Venezuelans have needed a humanitarian visa to enter Ecuador, which has left hundreds of them stranded on the border with Colombia who had planned to cross its territory on the way to other countries like Peru and Chile.
But Moreno guaranteed that his government will allow Venezuelans freedom to cross the country in cases where they can show “they need to get somewhere to see their wives, children, or perhaps have the chance to get jobs or visas in a neighboring country.”