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Montevideo, December 11th 2016 - 13:49 UTC

Clear victory for Correa will have him in frontline to succeed Chavez

Friday, February 15th 2013 - 05:51 UTC
Full article 30 comments
The combative US trained economist Correa “gets things done” and represents political stability The combative US trained economist Correa “gets things done” and represents political stability

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, one of Latin America's most outspoken leaders is almost certain to win re-election on Sunday by an ample margin catapulting him as the most probable successor of Venezuela’s ailing Hugo Chavez and the populist movement in Latinamerica.

The combative US-trained economist has won strong support by using windfall oil earnings to give cash handouts to some 2 million people and expand access to healthcare and education.

Correa has a lead of as much as 50 percentage points over the nearest of his seven rivals in opinion polls. His confrontation with oil companies and Wall Street investors has helped him drum up nationalist fervour.

He took a leave of absence from the presidency to focus on campaigning, and for the past six weeks he has been tirelessly visiting windswept Andean hamlets, sweltering Amazon towns and urban slums in the country of 15 million.

“We already have a president, we have Rafael!” is a common chant at his campaign rallies. His rivals mostly drive through shantytowns in convoys, while saturating local media with campaign ads.

Three respected pollsters show the 49-year-old Correa, who caught the world's attention last year by granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as the clear front runner.

The Perfiles de Opinion polling firm recently showed him with 62% support. To avoid a second round, Correa needs to win 50% of the vote or 40% with a lead of 10 percentage points over the second-placed candidate.

Correa has been in power for six years and a victory on Sunday would give him another four years. In the decade before he came to office, three presidents were ousted by military coups and street protests.

His re-election could help shore up the ALBA bloc of populist leaders in Latin America. Venezuela’s Chavez has been the anti-US group's undisputed leader, but he is fighting cancer and may not be able to hang onto power. Further more the Castro brothers in Cuba are in their late eighties and with precarious health.

Supporters admire Correa's unflinching style of government, but others are put off by his impetuous manner and his penchant for confrontation with reporters and bankers.

“People say he's arrogant and mean, but he gets things done,” said political science professor Franklin Ramirez. “The key is that people can see the difference between political instability and a paralysis of the state in the past, with the extraordinary dynamism they see nowadays.”

However adversaries say constitutional changes that Correa pushed through in 2008 allowed him to reshape state institutions to boost his power while placing allies in key posts. They accuse him of using a referendum to bypass a hostile Congress on an overhaul of the justice system.

Opponents also allege that Correa has accumulated power and persecuted private media in an ongoing dispute that has included launching several libel suits against critical newspapers and reporters. Correa insists he is a victim of the media.

He ended a 2012 interview by WikiLeaks' Assange with the phrase “Welcome to the club of the persecuted,” comparing his own experience with the media to the former computer hacker's battle to avoid extradition from Britain.

If Correa wins on Sunday, his main challenge will be to win over investors who have turned their backs on Ecuador. In 2008, Correa's government defaulted on 3.2 billion dollars in foreign debt and in 2010 he forced oil companies to sign new contracts giving more revenue to the government.

 

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

Top Comments

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  • Anglotino

    Succeeding Chavez is hardly a prize. That buffoon has bankrupted his country and is sending millions of people back to the poverty that he just recently helped them escape.

    Even Correa has started to distance himself from Chavez.

    As for Assange! OMFG what an anus! He is running for a senate seat in my home state so I get to put him last on the ballot.

    “Welcome to the club of the persecuted” - Enuf said really!

    Feb 15th, 2013 - 06:16 am 0
  • Boovis

    Assange highlighted some very important details of political activity and reminded governments they work for the people and not the other way around. The audacity of the US government to state that there are some things the public should not know is arrogance in the extreme. To vote for someone to represent you, only for them to turn around and say “thanks, but I'll only let you know things I'm doing when I think you should know” what kind of democracy is that?
    On the other hand, this whole thing has gone to Assange's head and he seems to have a completely personal agenda now, hence the split in the original groups he formed. Good luck to him, but I'm not sure he's smart enough to not be just someone else's stooge instead.

    Feb 15th, 2013 - 06:46 am 0
  • Tobers

    @Boovis

    Julian Assange is a narcissist who got the ultimate thrill - him against the world - with the Wikileaks exposes but when the chickens came home to roost, when reality dawned on him, he completely wet himself.

    Its kind of easy when you're doing your revolting behind a keyboard . Hes no revolutionary. Wikileaks was just an outlet for his ego even if he himself thought otherwise. He wasnt doing it for the good of humanity. Hes not by any accounts a particularly nice or humanitarian man by nature.

    Having said that I dont deny the US would probably like to see something -happen- to him but if one is going to do what Assange did then one has to stand with dignity and face the oppressors and not go running to the sanctity of a corrupt egomaniacal populist who is trying to shut down the free press in his country. The irony.

    Feb 15th, 2013 - 06:58 am 0
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