ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Equateur: le nouveau défi de Rafael Correa
by Bernard Duraud
Translated Monday 18 February 2013, by
The outgoing president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, is seeking a third term to continue his "citizen’s revolution", reconciling economic sovereignty, state regulation and reduction of inequalities.
Rafael Correa is expected to be re-elected in the Ecuadorian presidential election, the first round of which takes place this Sunday. All surveys attribute between 50 and 60% of the votes to the outgoing president. The seven other candidates are lagging far behind the leader of the left-wing Alianza Pais. His nearest rival, Guillermo Lasso, is credited with 10—20% of the vote. This right-wing businessman from the Movement for the creation of opportunities (Creo) was formerly Minister of Economy and Executive Chairman of the Bank of Guayaquil where he is now one of the major shareholders. Former president of the Constituent Assembly Alberto Acosta has galvanized opposition to the left of Correa by allying with the ecological movement and indigenous political movement Pachakutik. Acosta decries the personalization of power of his former friend as well as his economic policy, which is based on the extraction of raw materials and mainly oil.
Reelected in the historic first round of the 2009 elections after the entry into force of the new Constitution, Correa belies the reputation of this country (15 million inhabitants) marked by political instability and a profound distrust of traditional parties. He won the support of the working classes, reformed institutions, kept his promise of a new Constitution (2008), and renegotiated the contracts of multinational oil and mining companies. Advocating the "citizen’s revolution" to better address social inequality and corruption, he helped restore the balance between various authorities and tasked civil society with the role of monitoring state institutions.
He also stood up to the country’s creditors, imposing a reduction of the external debt to generate new financial resources and boost social programmes in health and education. Despite the global crisis, Ecuador has experienced a significant decline in its poverty rate, 29% against 37% in the early 2000s, while unemployment has declined from 9 to 4.9% of the active population.
Squaring up to Washington
Despite pressure from the USA, Correa did not renew the contract for the US military base in Manta. As a member of ALBA, alongside Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, Ecuador has become one of the region’s loudest voices in defending the rights of the people of the South against Washington, amply demonstrated by Correa when he refused to attend the Summit of the Americas as long as Cuba was not invited. However, one major challenge awaits Alianza Pais, which finds itself confronted by a multitude of demands at the local level: the challenge of winning an absolute majority currently lacking in Congress.