by Enrico Tortolano
PRESIDENT Rafael Correa of Ecuador received an emphatic endorsement of his socialist policies last Sunday by winning more than 50 per cent of the vote in an eight-candidate contest – enough to give him a majority in the national assembly.
Exit polls put him on 54 per cent of the popular vote, well ahead of former president Lucio Gutierrez with 28 per cent.
The president danced, sang his party anthem and pumped his fists after hearing the result. “This revolution is on the march, and nobody and nothing can stop us”, said
Mr Correa, who has re-shaped one of South America’s poorest countries by doubling state spending on healthcare, education, pensions and infrastructure.
He added “We have formal democracy, our great challenge now is to build true democracy, which means a more fair and more equal homeland.”
Before Mr Correa was elected in 2006, Ecuador was one of South America’s most turbulent countries, with 10 presidents in the decade 1996-2006. He has defaulted on £2 billion worth of international debt, calling it “illegitimate”, expelled two United States diplomats and appropriated the assets of oil companies.
Critics worry about the world recession and a financial black hole from falling oil revenues as well as repercussions from his decision to default on the country’s debt. But his actions are popular – and seen as patriotic – in a country once written off as a “banana republic”.
Mr Correa told supporters: “We will never defraud the Ecuadorean people. I think that’s why we received such immense support. We’ve made history in a nation that between 1996 and 2006 never saw a democratic government complete its term.
“Socialism will continue. The Ecuadorian people voted for that. We are going to emphasise this fight for social justice, for regional justice. We are going to continue the fight to eliminate all forms of workplace exploitation within our socialist conviction: the supremacy of human work over capital. Nobody is in any doubt that our preferential option is for the poorest people – we are here because of them.”
He concluded his victory speech with the final words from the last letter Che Guevara wrote to Fidel Castro: “Hasta la victoria siempre.”