Ecuador's Correa enjoys re-election, seeks investment

Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:47am EST
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By Eduardo Garcia and Brian Ellsworth

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Monday reveled in a sweeping re-election victory that allows him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he seeks to woo foreign investment in the resource-wealthy Andean nation.

The pugnacious 49-year-old economist trounced his nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points on Sunday to win a new four-year term. He has already been in power for six years, winning broad support with ambitious social spending programs.

His resounding victory could set Correa up to become Latin America's most outspoken critic of Washington as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is locked in a battle with cancer and may be unable to stay in power.

"We will be present wherever we can be useful, wherever we can best serve our fellow citizens and our Latin American brothers," Correa told supporters who celebrated in front of the presidential palace in Quito, waving the ruling Alianza Pais party's neon-green flags.

Chavez made a surprise return to Venezuela on Monday after two months of cancer treatment in Cuba, but his health is delicate and it is not clear if he will be able to stay in power and maintain his decade-long role as Latin America's leftist standard bearer.

Correa is now the region's loudest voice arguing against the free-market reforms promoted by Washington and in favor of state-driven economies and expanding ties with China.

Still, the continued success of Latin American socialism will depend on strong commodities prices that underpin generous social spending, and Correa needs to both improve Ecuador's stagnant oil production and spur a nascent mining industry.

In a sign he wants to deepen socialist reforms, Correa's legislative agenda includes a new law that would regulate television and newspaper content, part of his ongoing confrontation with opposition media. He also plans a land reform campaign to redistribute idle land to the poor.   Continued...