Ecuador's Correa rallies supporters against opposition

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2012 9:29 PM
Ecuador's Correa rallies supporters against opposition

By Cristina Munoz and Jose Llangari

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa, rallied supporters on Thursday in a show of force against street protests by opponents who he said were trying to destabilize his government ahead of the 2013 election.

High government spending and robust economic growth have made Correa popular among the poor, who make up a majority of Ecuador's population. His opponents complain about high inflation and taxes and say the president's hardball governing style has stifled media freedom.

"Those that today called for the marches with the aim of destabilizing ... and to catapult themselves toward the election, have gathered very few people," Correa told hundreds of supporters.

"This revolution won't be stopped by anyone or anything," Correa said in a speech from the presidential palace.

Correa, 48, has not confirmed he will run for re-election, saying the decision rests with his family and the ruling party.

The opposition is divided and has had trouble coalescing behind one candidate.

Thursday's anti-government protest was much smaller than the pro-Correa rally and was led by former Correa allies, leftist opposition politicians and trade union leaders.

Marchers said they were protesting high taxes, price increases and government moves to attract mining investors.

"We're protesting because the government has implemented neo-liberal policies against people and against nature, it's taking steps toward the right, like signing a mining deal," said Alejandro Camacho, a 21-year-old university student.

On Monday, the government signed a contract giving the go-ahead for Chinese-owned Ecuacorriente to develop the Mirador copper mine, which triggered protests among local communities that fear the open-pit project will destroy the environment and pollute water resources.

Indigenous groups began a march on Thursday in southern Ecuador that is set to arrive in Quito on March 22 to protest Correa's efforts to kick-start the mining industry and help the OPEC member diversify its economy from oil exports.

(Reporting By Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Peter Cooney)