By Eduardo Garcia
QUITO, Nov 10 (Reuters) - 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.