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.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ecuador's Correa on track to win referendum

By Alonso Soto

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Ecuador's left-wing President Rafael Correa has solid support, according to new polls released on Friday, and seems likely to win a referendum against a disorganized opposition next week, which will expand his powers.

Even in Guayaquil, a business hub and opposition stronghold that is home to many of Ecuador's old political families, Correa seemed to be gaining popularity ahead of the Sept. 28 vote.

"I was one of those who marched and cheered for traditional parties," said fish vendor Galo Barahona, one of nearly 330,000 voters living in a parish of Guayaquil. "But they let me down, I want change. No more poverty."

For years Ecuador lurched from one crisis to another, with presidents toppled every couple of years and millions of people leaving the banana-growing nation in search of work abroad.

If he succeeds in winning the referendum, Correa, a U.S.-trained economist who took office in January 2007, will be able to amend the constitution to give himself greater powers over the economy and increase his influence over key political institutions in the oil-producing nation, which is a member of OPEC.

"The opposition is tremendously worried about the referendum outcome, but they don't seem to be doing anything about it," said Carlos Cordova, a pollster with Cedatos-Gallup. "They lost the battle before it even started."

If Correa, 45, wins, he will be able to run for a second term and is likely to call new presidential elections in 2009.

Two national polls released on Friday showed support for a new constitution has climbed to between 56 and 60 percent. While opposition to changing the constitution remains below 30 percent. The polls were conducted last week by Cedatos-Gallup and Informe Confidencial.

Correa's promise to redistribute Ecuador's oil wealth has resonated among the poor majority, while opposition parties have been hamstrung by past repressive governments and frequent monetary devaluations.

"Correa is doing social work that past governments forgot to do," said Barahona, who voted for Correa in the presidential election after backing the Social Christian party for decades.


Other prominent opponents to Correa have kept quiet in the run up to the referendum. They include his previous rival for the presidency, banana mogul Alvaro Noboa, who has been accused of tax fraud.

The opposition says Correa is trying to amass dictatorial powers and to build a Cuban-style socialist state.

Despite his support, Correa, himself from a lower-middle class Guayaquil family, will not win easily in Ecuador's largest city.

Guayaquil's popular conservative mayor, Jaime Nebot, is actively campaigning against the new constitution.

Nebot, widely credited for turning Guayaquil into a model of urban renewal, led anti-government marches earlier this year but has failed to take his fight nationwide.

Opposition politicians said Nebot and other opponents face an uphill battle against a government that has spent millions of dollars in subsidies for the poor and media publicity.

"The government's money-wasting campaign makes it impossible for the opposition to compete," said Alfonso Harb, a senior member of the Social Christian party. "But new faces are emerging... the fight is not over for Correa."

A growing opposition voice comes from church leaders and private college student groups, mostly in Guayaquil, who have marched and celebrated outdoor masses to show their resistance to Correa's socialist reforms.

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