Ecuadoreans re-elect Correa as president

February 19, 2013 - 12:57:37 am

QUITO: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa yesterday revelled in a sweeping re-election victory that allows him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he seeks to woo foreign investment in the resource-wealthy Andean nation.

The pugnacious 49-year-old economist trounced his nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points on Sunday to win a new four-year term. He has already been in power for six years, winning broad support with ambitious social spending programmes.

His resounding victory could set Correa up to become Latin America’s most outspoken critic of Washington as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is locked in a battle with cancer and may be unable to stay in power.

“We will be present wherever we can be useful, wherever we can best serve our fellow citizens and our Latin American brothers,” Correa told supporters who celebrated in front of the presidential palace in Quito, waving the ruling Alianza Pais party’s neon-green flags.

Correa is now the region’s loudest voice arguing against the free-market reforms promoted by Washington and in favour of state-driven economies and expanding ties with China.

Still, the continued success of Latin American socialism will depend on strong commodities prices that underpin generous social spending, and Correa needs to both improve Ecuador’s stagnant oil production and spur a nascent mining industry.

In a sign he wants to deepen socialist reforms, Correa’s legislative agenda includes a new law that would regulate television and newspaper content, part of his ongoing confrontation with opposition media. He also plans a land reform campaign to redistribute idle land to the poor.

“Our Ecuador needs a president like Rafael Correa. He has been strong and has not allowed anyone to intimidate him,” said Julieta Moira, an unemployed 46-year-old as she celebrated outside the presidential palace on Sunday night. “I’m very excited, happy and thankful.”

Correa is also expected to seek changes to a mining law that would help close a deal with Canada’s Kinross to develop a large gold reserve. That will be a major test of his ability to offer investment security while ensuring the state keeps a large portion of revenue.

“Correa’s electoral-victory statements suggest he would single out domestic economic groups, as part of his policy to support the poor. The sectors most likely to be affected by Correa’s renewed radicalism would be the banking, media and banana industries,” risk consulting firm IHS said yeterday. REUTERS

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