Ecuador's President Rafael Correa was victorious again yesterday, with 60% of the electorate re-electing him over his nearest rival who received only 21% of the vote. President Correa called for "another four years of revolution" and declared, "nothing can stop it." as he spoke to the nation. He was first elected president in 2007 and since then he has brought hope and stability to Ecuador for the first time in the country's history. During the first six years of his presidency, Correa has championed the needs and rights of the people in a "citizen's revolution."
James Petras explains, "The Social Bases of Correa’s Popularity"
Correa’s electoral victories are directly related to his populist social policies financed by the substantial oil revenues resulting from the high prices and huge increase from the renegotiation of the oil contracts with the multi-nationals – an increase from a 20% to an 85% tax. Correa increased the health budget from $561 million in 2006 to $774 million in 2012, about 6.8% of the national budget. Clinics have multiplied, the price of medications has been reduced as a result of a joint venture with the Cuban firm Enfarm, and access to medical care has vastly improved. Educational spending has increased from 2.5% of GDP in 2006 to 6% in 2013, including a free lunch program for children. The regime has increased state subsidies for social housing, especially for low income classes as well as returning immigrants. To lower unemployment, Correa has allocated $140 million in micro credits to finance self-employment, a measure especially popular among workers in the “informal sector”. By effectively reducing the debt to foreign creditors by two-thirds (debt service runs to 2.24% of GDP), Correa has increased the minimum wage and pensions for low income retirees thus expanding the social security system.
Anti-poverty subsidies, payments of $35 monthly (increased to $50 two weeks before the Elections) to poor families and the disabled and - low interest loans have allowed Correa to gain influence and divide the opposition movements in the countryside. Business elites especially in Guayaquil and the middle and upper echelon of the public sector especially in the petrol sector, have become important contributors and backers of Correa’s electoral machine.
As a result of State subsidies, contracts and the backing of business and banking sectors and the weakening of the opposition media elites, Correa has built a broad electoral base that transverses the class spectrum. The entire ‘popular alliance’ is, however, highly dependent on Correa’s pact with extractive multi-nationals. His electoral success is a result of a strategy based on the revenue from a narrowly based export sector. And the export sector is highly dependent on the expansion of oil exploitation in the Amazon region which adversely affects the livelihood and health of the indigenous communities, who in turn are highly organized and in a permanent ‘resistance mode”.
Correa has also taken the country to new levels of independence. Following his election victory yesterday he told the nation, "The colonial powers are not in charge anymore, you can be sure that in this revolution it's Ecuadoreans who are in charge."
Meanwhile he has been subject to enormous pressures from Washington, Ecuador's primary indigenous organizations and even the Left. He has become another target for the imperialists who have been losing their grip on Central and South America for over a decade. As with Venezuela's President Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales the capitalist media war is leveled against President Correa with the BBC recently calling him, "a dictator in the making."
President Correa holds a Ph.D. in economics, educated in Ecuador, Belgium and the United States and has earned his credentials as a revolutionary, standing against US imperialism in Ecuador. The US, Canada and European countries have reasons to fear him for:
- his unflinching support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias and the Bolivarian Revolution;
- his stand against the so-called "war on drugs" run by the US in Colombia;
- his robust response and condemnation of the Colombian government when it carried out the cross-border missile attack on a FARC military camp inside Ecuador on March 1, 2008;
- his closing of the US Manta Air Base in Ecuador in September, 2009;
- his $19 Billion law suit against petroleum giant Chevron for polluting the indigenous lands of Ecuador culminating earlier this year;
- his nationalization of Ecuador's oil and gas reserves, notably the Amistad oilfield, U.S. Noble Energy Company's Energy Development Company in 2011, placing them under the state oil company, Petroecuador, and the Electricity Corporation of Ecuador (Celec).
- Correa's plan to nationalize the country's banana export industry
- his granting of political asylum to Julian Assange in 2012 when the US tried to engineer bogus rape charges against Assange for extradition from England to Sweden and from there to the U.S. where he would have been imprisoned and possibly been executed for revealing U.S. state secrets through Wikileaks.
- and most recently for his passing of a law to raise taxes on the bankers & financial sector before the February election to help raise the standard of living for the poor. In fact, Guillermo Lasso, an entrenched banker from Guayaquil will be the foremost opposition candidate running against him in the presidential elections next month (February 17)
In addition to Correa's assault on US imperialism, President Correa was the target of a September 30, 2010 assassination attempt by a band of corrupt Ecuadoran police. There can be little doubt that those police who have now been prosecuted and imprisoned were backed by the CIA with the objective overthrowing the government.
Viva Correa! Viva Ecuador! Viva the Revolution!!