Galapagos Field Report

February 2007

Rafael Correa: Ecuador elects its 8th President in the Last Ten Years

What is the impact of the elections for the Galapagos Islands? Well, many people are not aware of the fact that Ecuadorian politics and instability over the last 10 years have had a direct and indirect influence on the instability that has plagued the Galapagos Islands.

Last year, we saw a glimpse of hope of a return to stability with the historic decision by Ana Alban, Ecuador's Minister of the Environment, to elect not only the first woman, Biologist Raquel Molina, to the top position of the Galapagos National Park but to do so with transparency and merit. All Galapagos National Park directors prior to Biologist Molina were appointed, not elected. Therefore, the Galapagos Islands, due to political turmoil, had 12 different directors in just 2 years. The real test of stability was to see if this Director would survive a new Presidential election. (Refer to: http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/news-060510-1.html)

The 8th President of Ecuador in just 10 years, Rafael Correa, is a young and energetic 43-year-old economist and father of three, who speaks fluent English, French, and Quechua, an indigenous language learned while volunteering. He is appointing seven women as ministers including a historic first-ever woman as Minister of Defense. The fact that he has elected to keep the current environmental minister, Ana Alban, should ensure that the current Galapagos National Park Director stays in her position, and thus, is allowed to further stabilize the national park as an institution of authority responsible for one of the most unique and fragile natural systems on this planet.


Ecuador's newly elected President Rafael Correa with Lenyn Betamcourt,
Sea Shepherd's Manager of Research & Education in the Galapagos Islands

President Correa is a modern leftist who is seeking a referendum to rewrite the constitution and restructure the Ecuadorian Congress. The results, if successful, would theoretically help reduce the corruption that has plagued Ecuador in the past. His strong stance against corruption is needed in order to ensure local government integrity in the Galapagos Islands. "Corruption at different levels is at the root of the lack of legal decisions against poaching, and stronger sanctions are needed to create legal deterrents necessary to prevent crimes against nature in the Galapagos," states Sea Shepherd Galapagos Director Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez.

President Correa showed a strong stance against Columbia's use of a strong chemical product on the Ecuadorian-Columbian border stating that it is destroying Ecuadorian ecosystems. He also took a strong position against the exploration and exploitation of oil within indigenous territories. In a recent interview by renowned Ecuadorian talk show host, Freddy Ehlers, he responded to a question about his position on Ecuador's natural resources stating, "...I was an environmental economics professor and know very well how important the environment is to the future of Ecuador." He further stated that he recognizes the lack of funding towards the national parks, and he is intent on strengthening the national park system. President Correa mentioned that he was embarrassed by the fact that the Miss Universe contest in Ecuador cost 14 million dollars yet the national parks received just over 2 million dollars. He reminded, "...each and every Ecuadorian to protect the environment because it is precious and therein lies our future." (Source: Freddy Ehlers Interview on LaTV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LrAnqtptwc)