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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ecuador approves changes to Constitution

IHT, 16 April, 2007.

by Simon Romero

QUITO: President Rafael Correa's proposal to rewrite Ecuador's Constitution seemed on its way to a landslide victory in a referendum, even as the nationwide vote was shadowed by a disclosure that Correa's father had been imprisoned decades ago in the United States on drug smuggling charges.

Illustrating the heightening tension between Correa and Congress, a legislator, Luis Almeida, leaked details of the imprisonment to local news outlets on Saturday. The disclosure of the incident, which occurred about 40 years ago, drew a quick and impassioned rebuke from Correa.

"My mother never told us the truth," Correa, 44, said on his national radio program. "I found out about this when I was 18. What blame do I have for something my father did 40 years ago, when I was 5 years old? My father has been dead for 13 years."

While details of the incident remain vague, it adds to the political agitation in Ecuador, with Correa, just three months into his presidency, pitted against the entrenched political elites that have dominated the country's legislature and its bureaucracy for decades.

The disclosure also adds another facet to the complex public persona of one of Latin America's newest leaders in a growing movement to counter American political influence in the region. Correa, a polished economist with postgraduate degrees from American and European universities, has allied himself with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

But he has also pushed to maintain strong economic ties with the United States while vociferously opposing renewal of an agreement that allows the United States to conduct drug surveillance flights from a base in the coastal city of Manta. And in a spat with President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, the Bush administration's closest ally in South America, Correa has been critical of Colombia's policy of fumigating coca crops near its border with Ecuador, which is carried out with aid from the United States.

Correa said his father, who was apparently unemployed at the time, was imprisoned for three and a half years in the United States after his arrest there in the late 1960s. Other details about Correa's upbringing are sparse, apart from statements that his family endured economic hardship while he was growing up.

"I had a very hard childhood," Correa said on his radio program.

Political analysts here said the news about Correa's father could actually work to the president's advantage if he was perceived as someone who overcame obstacles to rise to a position of such influence. About 70 percent of those polled approve of Correa's job performance as he presses forward with a campaign to fundamentally restructure Ecuador's political system.

According to surveys of voters leaving the polls released late Sunday, the referendum on whether to hold a new constitutional convention was approved by almost 80 percent of voters, easily surpassing expectations. If final results show a victory for Correa, Ecuador will soon start choosing delegates to the convention for a process that has been similarly carried out in Bolivia and Venezuela.

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