Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa met on Saturday with Ecuadoreans living in Spain and called on them to "not forget" why they had to leave their country, just 23 days ahead from a decisive presidential election in the South American country.
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Correa, who will leave his post in May, made his weekly broadcast speech from Barcelona during what may be his last international tour. He is visiting Spain and Italy, the countries with the largest populations of Ecuadoreans living abroad.
Most of those migrants were victims of the 1998–99 Ecuador economic crisis that led to the collapse of the banking system in the country. This economic downturn was the steepest, and in 2000 inflation hit a record high that resulted in the country’s financial dollarization.
The destruction of wealth in the wake of the crisis and the massive loss of jobs set off the largest emigration wave in Ecuador's history, with an exodus totaling 500,000 people between 1998 and 2002.
Correa blamed "corrupt bankers" and the "Christian Social-Democracy," for this crisis, in a clear reference to the two main right-wing opposition candidates that are running for the presidency of Ecuador, the banker Guillermo Lasso from CREO party and lawmaker Cynthia Viteri of the Social Christian Party.
"They were the gravediggers of this country and now they present themselves as the saviors," Correa said as he claimed to have “clean hands” after almost a decade of government dubbed the “Citizens' Revolution.” He also expressed his support for Lenin Moreno, the candidate of his party PAIS Alliance.
The socialist president said the Ecuadorean economy was able to emerge thanks to remittances sent by migrants, an action that contrasts with that of the "powerful" who took their money overseas to keep it safe, he said.
According to most recent figures, there are an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million Ecuadoreans live abroad. This population accounts for the largest Latin American nationality in Spain, the second largest in Italy and one of the largest immigrant groups in metro New York.