Ecuador’s Correa wins third presidential term

Leftist leader Rafael Correa, a critic of US foreign policy, defeats nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has been re-elected to a third term in office allowing him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he seeks to woo foreign investment in the resource-wealthy Andean nation.

“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 gathered in front of the presidential palace in Quito on Monday.

The 49-year-old economist defeated his nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points, according to results ratified by the National Electoral Council.

Correa’s resounding victory could set him 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.

Correa’s closest challenger, former banker Guillermo Lasso has conceded defeat, congratulating Correa for “a victory deserving respect”.

The Leftist leaders’s social and economic programmes have made him a popular leader, with an approval rating of nearly 85 percent.

Earlier, Correa told reporters his goal is to now further reduce poverty, which the United Nations says dropped from 37 percent to 32 percent since he first took office in 2007, as he deepens what he terms his “citizens’ revolution”.

Correa has brought political stability to the oil-exporting nation of 14.6 million people that cycled through seven presidents in the decade before he first took office.

He won re-election in April 2009 after voters approved a constitutional rewrite that mandated a new ballot, and he would be legally barred from running again following a victory.

Foreign investment

The opposition’s inability to unite behind a single candidate in Sunday’s vote helped give Correa a comfortable lead. Former President Lucio Gutierrez won 5.9 percent. The rest of the vote was divided among five other candidates.

A self-declared foe of neo-liberal economics, Correa has taken on big business and media groups, imposing new contracts on oil companies and renegotiating the country’s debt.

Foreign investment will be key to boosting oil output that has been stagnant for five years and to expanding a mining industry that has barely begun to tap the country’s gold and copper reserves.

“We can’t be beggars sitting on a sack of gold,” is a catch phrase Correa has used in recent months to argue that Ecuador needs to better exploit its natural resources despite opposition from rural communities to some projects.

In that vein, Correa appears to be cautiously willing to cut deals and soften his image as an anti-capitalist crusader.

“The advantages of our country for foreign investment are political stability, a strong macroeconomic performance…and important stimulus to new private investment,” he said last week while hosting the emir of gas-rich Qatar.

Foreign direct investment has generally been less than $1bn a year since Correa took office in 2007. By comparison,
neighboring Peru and Colombia last year received $7.7bn and $13bn, respectively.

Correa’s government is also in talks with China to secure funding for the $12.5bn Pacifico refinery, which would
allow Ecuador to save up to $5b a year in fuel imports.

Source: News Agencies