The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ecuador candidate defends Chavez ties

Monday, September 25, 2006 · Last updated 6:00 p.m. PT


QUITO, Ecuador -- A tough-talking leftist economist and presidential front-runner who rattles foreign investors said Monday he is proud to call Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez his friend.

Rafael Correa also said he would not extend the U.S. military's use of the Pacific coast Manta air base as an operational site for drug surveillance flights when the treaty runs out in 2009.

"A symbol of sovereignty is to not have foreign soldiers on national soil," he said. The only way the U.S. military presence would continue in Ecuador was if Washington allowed "an Ecuadorean military base in Miami," he said.

Correa said he does not see what the problem is in his friendship with Chavez, Latin America's leading anti-U.S. crusader who called President Bush "the devil" at the U.N. last week.

"I am honored by the friendship," he said. "If I am a friend of Chavez, 'What a mistake!' If I were a friend of George Bush, they would have elected me man of the year," Correa, 43, told foreign correspondents.

But Correa denied accusations from conservative political rivals that Chavez is financing his presidential run in a field of 13 candidates ahead of the Oct. 15 election.

"How is he going to help me? First of all it's prohibited under election law, and second our campaign is the most austere," he said even though Correa's image on billboards and T-shirts is everywhere. He said his supporters are downloading campaign propaganda from his Web site and reproducing it on their own.

Chavez has been accused of meddling in elections this year in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua to boost leftist candidates. He already counts Cuba's Fidel Castro and Bolivian President Evo Morales as his allies in the region.

Correa, a U.S.-trained economist with a doctorate from the University of Illinois, leads his closest challenger Leon Roldos, a center-left former vice president, in the polls.

The results of a simulated ballot, released on Saturday by independent firm Market, gave Correa 26.4 percent support, as opposed to 19.5 percent for Roldos. It surveyed 1,280 people who took part. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Those results have spooked foreign investors.

On Monday, Correa said he would seek to renegotiate Ecuador's foreign debt service, but would not rule out a moratorium on payments to international lenders "if there isn't openness on the part of the markets, multinationals and governments."

"The world is recognizing that the (International) Monetary Fund and World Bank have not been a part of the solution, but rather the problem," he said. "Life and national commitments come first, before the pockets of creditors and supposed international commitments."

He said Ecuador cannot afford its current $2 billion debt service, representing 7 percent of the country's gross domestic product. "Ecuador cannot pay more than 3 percent," he said.

Correa said he would overhaul contracts with foreign oil firms for Ecuador to retain a greater share of petroleum wealth and expressed hope that Ecuador could eventually abandon the U.S. dollar as its official currency.

Correa served for four months as outgoing President Alfredo Palacio's economy minister. Palacio demanded his resignation in August 2005 for failing to consult him before publicly lambasting the World Bank over its denial of a $100 million loan.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the ballot - or at least 40 percent with a 10-percentage point advantage over the nearest challenger - a runoff will be held on Nov. 26 between the two top finishers.

From Seattle Post.

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