By Eduardo Garcia
QUITO Nov 10 Ecuador's President Rafael Correa
launched his re-election bid on Saturday for a February vote
likely to give him a new four-year term to continue boosting
state control over the Andean nation's economy.
Government spending on roads, hospitals and schools has made
the 49-year-old, U.S.-trained economist very popular with the
majority poor, and he is well ahead of rivals in opinion polls.
The opposition is divided and lacks a charismatic leader.
Victory in the Feb. 17 vote would give the socialist Correa
a mandate for rolling out more reforms to increase state
revenues from the oil and mining sectors. But dependency on oil
exports in OPEC's smallest member is his Achilles heel, and he
may be forced to reduce state spending should oil prices fall.
"We've done a lot but there's a lot more to be done, to turn
this bourgeois state into a truly popular state that would serve
everyone, especially the poor ... that's why we accept this
nomination," Correa said in front of hundreds of supporters
after the ruling Alianza Pais coalition endorsed his candidacy
at a raucous meeting in a Quito football stadium.
In power since 2007 and a member of a Latin American leftist
bloc led by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Correa has given the state
a key role in a small economy very dependent on oil and bananas.
Casting his movement as a "Citizens' Revolution," Correa has
viciously battled political adversaries whom he disparages as an
elite that monopolized power for decades.
Critics say Correa has grabbed too much power and clamped
down on media freedom. They accuse him of scaring off foreign
investors with a 2008 debt default, and failing to diversify the
economy from its dependence on oil exports.