Saturday, November 25, 2006

Clear Choice for Ecuador: Correa Vs. Noboa

Sunday's Presidential election in Ecuador has slid under the radar thus far, but not for want of drama. While I don't buy into the right's whole Chavez vs. Bush thing, 2006's big 4 elections have split even thus far (Fox/Garcia and Evo/Ortega), so if 43-year old Rafael Correa would sneak up and win, it'd clearly tip the scale in favor of the leftist camp.

The election is unepectedly tight. A 17-point Noboa lead has seemingly evaporated by election eve. Most recent polling is trending Correa, who was up 6-8% in pre-election polling! I think it's anyone's race though as there are large numbers of undecideds. Which way ex-President Lucio Guitierrez's supporters vote will likely seal the results.

Noboa, the heir to a billion-dollar banana fortune, often gives away his money at campaign stops, often publicly prays and says the Lord sent him to rid the world of Communists, and promises everything for everyone - a true populist. He says he deserves the Presidency (laughingly) "Because I am one of the poor and I am the candidate of the poor. Because God has told me to be president," he said. His opponents say he makes money off the backs of the poor, and Human Rights Watch found him companies to be using child labor as recently as 2002.

Correa has been blasted by the predictable themes of the status quo loving elites - that he is radical, Chavez loving communist who would scare off the (US) investment and ruin the country. Correa defines himself as a "humanist, leftist Christian" - part of the "new Latin American left" that is removing the neo-liberal model and "Washington Consensus" imposed on the region. "I am a humanist because politics and economy should serve the people, Christian because I am nurtured by the church's social justice teachings, and leftist because I believe in equity, justice and the supremacy of work over capital," he says.

Maybe I am biased because Correa graduated (PHD in economics) from my alma matter but he seems smart, energetic and willing to alter capitalism's orientation under US domination. I wholeheartedly support him versus Noboaita - as the Ecuadorians call the plump Noboa.

There are certainly strong divides, both in foriegn and domestic policy. Correa wants to negotiate the debt (a la Argentina), take State control over the oil and gas production (a la Bolivia) and use the State to create jobs and improve infrastructure by having a popular assembly rewrite the constitution (a la Venezuela). He also would not renew the lease of the US's largest South American military base at La Manta.

For this, Correa has gotten the attention of US policy makers. But the involvement has had to be covert as Ecuadorians are proud people who would not take kindly to any public involvement. Correa says he has evidence of CIA involvement in last month's first-round election. All eyes will be on the ballots this time for sure. Any monkey business could further destabalize the divided country, which has had 8 Presidents in 11 years.

'Dale Correa'


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