Ecuador's Correa wins reelection, eyes investment
President Correa won by more than 30 percentage points, allowing him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he courts foreign investment for the resource-wealthy Andean nation.
(Page 2 of 2)
Correa dedicated his victory to Chavez. [...]Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Correa's closest rival, Guillermo Lasso, became the face of Ecuador's opposition on Sunday after winning about 23 percent of votes.
Critics call Correa a dangerous authoritarian who has curbed media freedom and controlled state institutions. Even some supporters disapprove of his tempestuous outbursts, fights with media and bullying of adversaries.
Ecuadoreans also chose a new Congress on Sunday, and Correa said he expected the ruling Alianza Pais to win a majority.
That would let him avoid negotiating with rivals to pass proposed legislation, including the new media law and land reform measures.
Correa needs to lure investors to diversify the economy and finance the investment in social welfare and infrastructure that helped him win another four-year term.
Ecuador has been locked out of capital markets after a 2008 debt default on $3.2 billion in bonds, and Correa's government has taken an aggressive stance with oil companies to squeeze more revenue from their operations.
Foreign investment will be key to boosting oil production that has been stagnant for five years and to expanding a mining industry that has barely begun to tap the country's gold and copper reserves.
"We can't be beggars sitting on a sack of gold," is a catch phrase Correa has used in recent months to argue that Ecuador needs to better exploit its natural resources despite opposition from rural communities to some projects.
In that vein, U.S.-educated Correa appears to be cautiously willing to cut deals and soften his image as an anti-capitalist crusader.
"The advantages of our country for foreign investment are political stability, a strong macroeconomic performance ... and important stimulus to new private investment," he said last week while hosting Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of gas-rich Qatar.
But in comments after his win on Sunday, he stressed that investment was not an end but a means to ensure growth. He promised Ecuador would not "mortgage" itself for foreign cash.
Foreign direct investment has generally been less than $1 billion a year since Correa took office in 2007. By comparison, neighboring Peru and Colombia last year received $7.7 billion and $13 billion, respectively.
"There is still a risk that Correa will seek to change terms for the mining sector once it is more developed, but for now, Correa will show signs of pragmatism as a means of kick-starting the sector," the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group said in an analysis anticipating his victory.
His government is also in talks with China to secure funding for the $12.5 billion Pacifico refinery, which would allow Ecuador to save up to $5 billion a year in fuel imports.