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.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ecuador Joins Chavez Camp Under Left-wing Populist Correa

January 13, 2007.
From Playfuls

Left-wing populist Rafael Correa is set to be inaugurated as Ecuador's president Monday, the latest addition to the growing Latin American camp led by controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Correa, 43, has a four-year mandate. The current legislation does not allow immediate re-election, but the challenge before him lies elsewhere - the country's last three elected presidents have not been able to complete their terms.

The inauguration ceremony will be attended by Chavez and by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, among other heads of state.

The incoming president of Ecuador is in his own words a close friend of Chavez. However, unlike the outspoken Venezuelan, the power base of this trained economist is not his country's numerous poor, but rather a middle class fed up with the traditional political parties.

Indeed, Correa is set to become the eighth president within 10 years in one of Latin America's most politically-volatile countries.

Oil is the main pillar of Ecuador's economy, which gets around 40 per cent of its export earnings and one-third of its central government budget from the fossil fuel.

Further, to add economic troubles to a complex political equation, 60 per cent of Ecuador's population of over 13 million lives in poverty.

A former foreign minister in the outgoing government, Correa is set to decree the creation of a Constituent Assembly with full powers on the same day he is inaugurated.

He has said he will keep the US dollar as the country's currency, but indicated he will not sign a free trade agreement with the United States that is in the final stages of negotiation.

Following Venezuela's example, he has announced that the state will claim a higher share of the profits of foreign oil companies that operate in Ecuador, and has said he plans to almost double the minimum wage and to half the cost of electricity, water and telephone services for the poor.

In late November, in a runoff between populists of the two extremes of the political spectrum, the left-wing Correa - who studied economics in the United States and in Belgium - obtained more than 68 per cent of the vote to defeat the richest man in the country, banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa.

Correa will succeed Alfredo Palacio as head of state.

The populist Lucio Gutierrez was elected president in November 2002, but the Ecuadorian Congress ousted him in 2005 after he dissolved the Supreme Court and appointed new judges who lifted an arrest warrant for corruption against a former president. His Vice President Palacio then became head of state.

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