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.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ecuador's Correa vows radical reforms in assembly

By Alexandra Valencia

MONTECRISTI, Ecuador, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Ecuador's President Rafael Correa on Tuesday vowed a radical overhaul to curb elites he branded "pillaging pirates" as he inaugurated the site for an assembly that will rewrite the constitution.

Riding on top of an auburn horse, the left-wing leader was greeted by cheering crowds in coastal Montecristi, where the government-controlled assembly will soon start debating the draft for a blueprint for the unstable Andean country.

"The assembly will bring changes from the root, radical reforms ... so this country can finally advance freely," Correa told thousands of backers outside the towering glass and metal building that will host the 130-member assembly.

Correa's Alianza Pais party in September won the majority of seats needed to pass constitutional changes in the assembly, expected to start its six-month debate next month.

His lopsided win has worried investors and opposition leaders who fear the former economy minister will use his strong mandate to follow the path of his close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and push for a socialist nation.

Correa has not wasted any time and in October announced a grab of nearly all the extra oil revenues generated by oil firms, a move that shocked investors, who also worry about his promises to restructure the country's foreign debt.

"The country will never again be the victim of pirates... who use their own kind of democracy to crush our people," Correa said.

A U.S.-educated economist, Correa says he wants the assembly to curb the powers of traditional political parties he blames for Ecuador's chronic instability, and calls for early congressional and presidential elections next year.

His opponents fear he will use the assembly to tilt South America's No. 5 oil producer on an authoritarian path.

But Correa's folksy style and aggressive stance against the elites many see as corrupt and against foreign companies have won him strong support among Ecuadoreans who have ousted three presidents in political upheaval in less than a decade.

The luxurious assembly building contrasts sharply with the dusty roads of Montecristi, a poor hamlet know for making Panama hats and as the birth place of Eloy Alfaro, a revolutionary leader who inspired Correa.

"The country will improve as the president says," said Luis Anchundia, a 20-year-old laborer who helped build the assembly site that cost the government around $4 million. "But we still have to wait to see if assembly members fulfill their roles."

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