Ecuador's Correa breezes to 2nd re-election

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 18, 2013 at 12:44 am •  Published: February 18, 2013
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Correa said he's happy to have more foreign investment but "it's better not to have it than to mortgage the country in the name of that pipe dream called foreign investment."

He did not explain, meanwhile, how he planned to pay for efforts to "quicken and deepen" poverty reduction. Skeptical economists say the state can't afford it without major new revenue sources.

Such talk doesn't dim the enthusiasm for Correa of the likes of Jomaira Espinosa.

"Before (Correa), my family didn't have enough to eat" and her father couldn't find work, the 18-year-old said. Now her father has a job as a public servant and she expects to be able to study for free at a university thanks to Correa's programs.

Since Correa took office in 2007, the United Nations says Ecuador's poverty rate has dropped nearly five percentage points to 32.4 percent. In all, 1.9 million people receive $50 a month in aid from the state. Critics complain that the handouts to single mothers, needy families and the elderly poor, along with other subsidies, have bloated the government.

Civil liberties, meantime, have suffered.

Correa has been widely condemned for using criminal libel law against opposition news media and for such strong-arm tactics as seizing Ecuador's airwaves virtually at will to spread his political gospel and attack opponents.

German Calapucha, a 29-year-old accountant, said he voted against Correa because he's tired of the president's imperiousness.

"He thinks that because he wins elections he has the right to mistreat people," Calapucha said.

Correa has eroded the influence not just of opposition political parties but also of the Roman Catholic Church and independent news media. He has stacked courts with friendly judges and prosecuted indigenous leaders for organizing protests against Correa's attempt to open up Ecuador to large-scale mining without their consent.

Meanwhile, Correa has been unable to stop a growing sensation of vulnerability in a country where robberies and burglaries grew 30 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year.

The graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign gained an early reputation as a maverick, defying international financiers by defaulting on $3.9 billion in foreign debt obligations and rewriting contracts with oil multinationals to secure a higher share of oil revenues for Ecuador.

He has also kept the United States at arm's length while upsetting Britain and Sweden in August by granting asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the online spiller of leaked U.S. government secrets who is wanted for questioning in Sweden for alleged sexual assault.

Correa has, meanwhile, cozied up to U.S. rivals Iran and China. The latter is the biggest buyer of Ecuador's oil and holds $3.4 billion in Ecuadorean debt, according to Finance Minister Patricio Rivera.

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Associated Press Writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Lima, Peru


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