Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa on Feb. 18 claimed an overwhelming re-election victory. Reuters perhaps inadvertently noted the contradiction in Correa’s program, stating that his sweep at the polls “allows him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he seeks to woo foreign investment in the resource-wealthy Andean nation.” Correa in his statements implied he is prepared to pick up the torch of Venezuela’s ailing Hugo Chávez, Latin America’s leading anti-imperialist head of state, who sent a statement of congratulations. “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 massed in front of the presidential palace in Quito, waving the green banners of his ruling Alianza Pais.
In a similar balcony appearance on the eve of the elections, Correa pledged to dedicate his victory to Chávez, telling supporters: “No one will stop our revolution. We have never failed and we will never fail.”
But Correa is meanwhile seeking changes to the country’s mining law and foreign investment law that would enable him to close a deal with Canada’s Kinross for develop a large gold reserve at Fruta del Norte (which actually lies in the country’s south, straddling Loja and Chinchipe provinces). Especially at issue is 70% windfall-profit tax that the company wants dropped as a precondition for the project.
Said an assessment from risk consulting firm IHS: “Correa’s electoral-victory statements suggest he would single out domestic economic groups, as part of his policy to support the poor. The sectors most likely to be affected by Correa’s renewed radicalism would be the banking, media and banana industries. On mining, however, we expect Correa to ease conditions as he is very keen in attracting foreign direct investment to this sector.”
Correa won at least 57% of the vote, compared to 24% for his closest rival, Guillermo Lasso, a former banker from the coastal city of Guayaquiil. Also challenging Correa from the right was former president Lucio Gutiérrez, and banana magnate and five-time presidential hopeful Alvaro Noboa. A populist challenge came from Correa’s his former ally Alberto Acosta, candidate of the Plurinational Unity of the Left, an alliance of the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD) and the indigenous political party Pachakutik.
In the lead-up to the election, Acosta accused Correa of betraying his progressive base. He told one interviewer: “The government of Rafael Correa is similar to a bad bus driver… the kind that puts directional left when it actually turns right.” After the vote, he told the BBC: “I don’t recognise the current Correa. He is a different person. He is not the friend I used to have, that I used to love like a brother.” (La Linea de Fuego, Ecuador, in English at UDW; Reuters, BBC News, Feb. 18; Mining.com, Kinross Gold Corporation press release via 4-traders.com, Feb. 17; Viento Sur, Spain, Feb. 1, in English at UDW)
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) issued a statement following the elections saying it “deeply respect[s] the popular will of the Ecuadorans,” but emphasizing “that we fight for a different democracy, one where people make decisions on core issues and where society plays a protagonistic role.” The statement pledged, “we will continue our historic struggle for the construction of a Plurinational State and for the Sumak Kawsay [Good Living] as a model for fairness and equality that expands democratic freedoms, favors the de-privatization of water and its consequent redistribution, implements land reform to revive agrarian production, and strengthens Latin American unity.”
The statement said “we wish luck to President Rafael Correa,” but also: “We hope that the criminalization and terrorism charges against indigenous and popular leaders come to an end, and that concessions of indigenous territories are no longer granted arbitrarily to transnational corporations.” The statement called for “the democratization and socialization of the economy,” and a halt to oil expansion in the Amazon basin, especially naming the Yasuní-Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini protected area, or Yasuní-ITT. (CONAIE statement, Feb. 21 via Acosta2013, in English at UDW)