QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A landslide second re-election secured, President Rafael Correa immediately vowed to deepen the "citizen's revolution" that has lifted tens of thousands of Ecuadoreans out of poverty as he expanded the welfare state.
"In this revolution the citizens are in charge, not capital," the leftist U.S.-trained economist said after winning 56.9 percent of the vote Sunday against 23.8 percent for his closest challenger, longtime banker Guillermo Lasso.
With 57 percent of the vote counted, former President Lucio Gutierrez finished third with 6 percent. The remainder was divided among five other candidates. Lasso conceded defeat late Sunday.
The fiery-tongued Correa has brought surprising stability to an oil-exporting nation of 14.6 million with a history of unruliness that cycled through seven presidents in the decade before him.
With the help of oil prices that have hovered around $100 a barrel, he has raised lower-class living standards and widened the welfare state with region-leading social spending.
The 48-year-old Correa dedicated his victory to his cancer-stricken friend President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who some analysts have suggested he could succeed as the standard-bearer of Latin America's left.
"We are only here to serve you. Nothing for us. Everything for you," Correa told cheering supporters from the balcony of the Carondelet presidential palace Sunday shortly after polls closed.
Yet Correa has also drawn wide rebuke for intolerance of dissent and some analysts have questioned how sustainable his economic policies are. The number of people working for the government has burgeoned from 16,000 to 90,000 during Correa's current term if office, Ecuador's nongovernmental Observatory of Fiscal Policy reported in December.
Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, called Correa's ramping up of social spending "simply applying the standard recipe for many populist governments in the region." While it succeeds in building political support in the short term, he said, it is not clear whether it is sustainable.
And while Correa has shown himself to be the "undisputed rhetorical leader of Latin America's left" — and should now see his standing enhanced there — Shifter said Correa's consolidation of power have damaged Ecuador's "already precarious institutions" and he lacks the clout, the ambition and the coffers to build a coalition that could curtail U.S. power in the region.
Correa's result Sunday easily topped the 51.7 percent that he won in his first re-election in April 2009. He is barred by the constitution from another 4-year term.
While a practitioner of one-man rule in the Chavez mold, he is more respectful of private property.
Ecuador relies on petroleum for more than half of its export earnings, and he has used this oil wealth to make public education and health care more accessible, and lay thousands of kilometers (miles) of new highways.
Foreign investment has suffered, however, and Lasso, the former head of the Banco de Guayaquil, ran on a platform of guaranteeing multinational businesses more favorable terms, such as abolishing a 5 percent tax on capital removed from Ecuador.