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.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ecuador's Elections: Winds of Change?

October 10, 2006

Orlando Oramas Leon

With a string of seven presidents over the last turbulent decade, Ecuador is gearing up for elections on Sunday with a big field and three candidates topping the polls; two of them are promising stability, and the leader, Rafael Correa, proposes peaceful revolution towards socialism of the 21st Century.

In his speeches, Correa contrasts '21st century socialism' with capitalism

Rafael Correa, 43, has several advantages over his closest rivals, former vice president Leon Roldos, from the Red Democratica- Izquierda Democratica Alliance, tycoon Alvaro Novoa, and Cynthia Viteri, from the Social Christian Party, with only a few days remaining before the October 15 vote.

Also in the race is Luis Macas, leader of the activist Indigenous Nationalities Confederation, reorganized after the betrayal by former president Lucio Gutierrez.

A second round runoff election will be held in November if no candidate wins more than half the vote or at least 40 percent with a 10-percent advantage over the nearest challenger.

Correa, who briefly held the post of Minister of Treasury (Economy), lost his job after he suggested the funnelling of foreign debt payments to fund urgent social programs. His idea was not well received by the international financial bodies, but he still upholds it today.

This is precisely why Wall Street is concerned about Correa and his Alianza Pais (County Alliance) coalition leading the polls. The candidate has said that, if he is elected, he will stop making debt payments if there is a substantial drop in oil prices, an important source of revenue for the Ecuadorian economy.

Ecuador currently pays more to cover interest on its debt than what it budgets for education. Despite its oil wealth, the overwhelming majority of its indigenous population live below the poverty line, with widespread unemployment and marginalization.

Correa has also voiced support for the revision of contracts with foreign oil corporations, which, like in Bolivia's case, are taking away the lion's share of revenues.

The presidential candidate is critical of neoliberalism and defends a lead role for the state in the country's economic and social life. He has vowed to oppose the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and turn the country's monetary reserves into an instrument of national investment.

Correa sees Latin American integration as urgent and as a counterweight to any Free Trade Agreement with the United States. In contrasting socialism with neoliberalism, he proposes a Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the nation's constitution to strengthen the country's institutions and give the citizenry more power.

'We have to leave the lies of neoliberalism behind and search for what in Latin America is known as the Socialism of the 21st Century,' said Correa recently at a news conference in which he voiced support for a 'radical, profound and quick' change.

His relationship with Washington will not be easy, most of all with respect to the future of the military base that the US maintains in Manta under the pretext of fighting drug-trafficking.

Correa does not hide his ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, with whom he shares an open friendship and coincidences on several political ideas.

It does not come as a surprise then to see his political adversaries accusing him of receiving Venezuelan financing, the very same tactic that was used against presidential candidates Shafick Handal in El Salvador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Ollanta Humala in Peru.

Notwithstanding the results of the forthcoming elections, which are likely to be decided in a runoff, the progress of the positions being defended by Correa come as part and parcel of the tendencies that are prevailing in the continent and are likely to surface in other upcoming elections as well.

From Granma.

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