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, September 22, 2007

Ecuadorean president seeks expat vote

BY CASEY WOODS,, 21 September, 2007

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa -- young, charismatic, and intent on leftist change -- brings his compatriots in Miami a simple message as he attempts to dismantle his nation's Congress, which he has called a ``sewer of corruption.''

''We are deciding the future of the country. Don't vote for the same as always,'' Correa told The Miami Herald on Friday as he arrived for a whirlwind trip that will take him to the United Nations in New York.

Correa will meet with South Florida's Ecuadorean community Saturday to stump for the country's upcoming elections to the constitutional assembly, which has been granted sweeping powers to change the constitution and the country's political destiny.

Many are concerned about Correa's move toward socialism and his ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

''He's just going to use that meeting to promote his candidates so they get a majority in the assembly,'' said Ana Noriega, president of the Miami Ecuadorean Lions Club. ``Under no circumstances will I go because I'm totally against what he's doing to the country.''


More than 150,000 Ecuadoreans, including 2,200 in Florida, are registered to vote abroad -- a fraction of the estimated 3 million who live in other countries. The Ecuadorean consulate estimates that about 60,000 Ecuadoreans live in Florida. Those who registered by June 30 will be allowed to vote at the consulate in downtown Miami.

Two of the 130 delegates who will be elected will come from the United States and Canada, and 38 expatriate candidates here and in the northeast are battling for a slot.

Ecuador's election comes as Venezuela, under Chávez's leadership, plans its own referendum in December on a second round of constitutional reforms that include removing all term limits on the presidency.

Correa echoes the Venezuelan president's call for a ''21st century socialism,'' though he has maintained that he is not imitating Chávez.

''We don't follow a model and we don't accept being dictated to by anyone,'' Correa said. ``What we are building in Ecuador is our own road to development.''

Correa was roundly defeated in voting by South Florida Ecuadoreans in both the first and second round of his 2006 election, with his conservative opponent Alvaro Noboa winning the local vote in the November election with 63 percent to Correa's 36 percent.

In Ecuador, however, Correa enjoys broad support, with more than 80 percent of voters approving his call for the constitutional assembly in an April referendum.

Since his election, Correa, 44, has significantly increased spending on social programs, including doubling monthly welfare payments to $30 for the country's 1.3 million poorest citizens.

Correa has also made expatriates a priority of his government, declaring them Ecuador's ''Fifth Region'' -- a constituency as important to the country's future as the Ecuadoreans living in its four traditional regions. Ecuadoreans living abroad sent home $2.9 billion in remittances in 2006, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

He created a government department focused on responding to expatriates' needs, pushed consulates to be more attentive, and guaranteed six constitutional assembly delegates to those living in Europe, North America and other Latin American countries.

''Never has any other president spoken so openly about the needs of immigrants and the influence they should have in Ecuadorean politics,'' said West Palm Beach resident Marco Molina, who will caravan with more than 50 Correa supporters for today's community meeting. ``He is an honest man who can bring about the changes that the country needs.''

Correa and his domestic allies have made moves that rattled investors and have drawn accusations of authoritarianism.

The Congress' opposition majority fought against giving the constitutional assembly such extensive powers, and voted to remove members of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal who declared the assembly would be able to dismiss the Congress. In response, the tribunal -- controlled by Correa allies -- sacked 57 of the 100 legislators in March.

Correa also pulled out of negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United States, saying he would sign the pact ''ni muerto'' - essentially over his ``dead body.''

''We aren't against commerce, but we are against the dumb opening,'' of economies, said Correa, a University of Illinois-educated economist. 'That simplifying [theory] that says `open and save yourself if you can' is an absurdity that destroys countries.''

The board of the Miami Ecuadorean-American Chamber of Commerce -- which voted not to attend today's gathering -- took out a full page ad in Friday's El Nuevo Herald, questioning his policies.


''The U.S. is a huge trading partner for Ecuador, and if that relationship disappears overnight because of a president's whim, the country is going to suffer,'' said Raul Villavicencio, a past president of the chamber. ``There's no point in going to listen to what he has to say, because it will just be a campaign speech.''

The Sept. 30 election promises to be bewildering for voters. The assembly delegates are divided into three categories: regional, national and expatriate. The national ballot alone is four feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide.

Voters in Ecuador face an even larger electoral field, with more than 3,000 candidates vying for 100 regional delegate spots.

The assembly has a minimum of 180 days to revise the constitution, which then must be ratified by a national referendum.

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