Ecuador's Correa: re-election bid up to party, family

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 23, 2012 4:13 PM
Ecuador's Correa: re-election bid up to party, family

By Eduardo Garcia

QUITO (Reuters) - President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said a decision on whether to run for re-election in February 2013 depends on the ruling party and his family, but that his responsibility was to guarantee that his "Citizens' Revolution" continues.

In power since 2007, Correa has implemented reforms aimed at increasing state revenue from the Andean country's natural resources and fighting a political and economic elite he says monopolized power for decades and did little for the poor majority.

High spending on roads, hospitals and schools has made Correa very popular, and he is well positioned to win the vote if he decides to run.

"First, Alianza Pais (Country Alliance) would make a decision, then I'd have to consult with my family," Correa told Reuters in an interview.

"From a personal point of view, I've always said that we have the responsibility to guarantee that this project which is changing Ecuador in a radical way continues, so one would have to take on that responsibility."

Correa said his family has had to cope with high-security protocols and lack of privacy since 2007, and it may not be fair to his Belgian wife and his three children to continue like that for four more years.

"The family suffers a lot ... one can bear the consequences of this decision (being president), but I wonder if it is fair that my loved ones also have to bear the consequences of my decisions," said the 49-year-old economist.

RUNNING MATE

If Correa runs for another term, he will need to pick a new running mate because Vice President Lenin Moreno has said he will not stand again for health reasons.

Moreno, a former writer and comedian, is confined to a wheelchair after being shot in a botched armed robbery in the late 1990s. He is very popular, and his absence from Correa's team could dent support for the leftist leader.

Correa, who dubbed his movement from the outset a "Citizens' Revolution," is very popular especially in poor rural areas and shantytowns. High oil prices for the OPEC member's production and increased tax revenues have allowed him to continue spending heavily in the months leading to the election.

The opposition is divided and lacks a charismatic leader.

Possible rivals include his brother and businessman Fabricio Correa; a banker from the coastal city of Guayaquil, Guillermo Lasso, and four-time presidential hopeful and banana magnate Alvaro Noboa.

Those three are expected to officially announce their bids for the presidency in the next couple of months, and the campaign should get into full swing in the last two months of the year.

Correa has been criticized for amassing too much power, but he has brought stability to the nation. Three presidents were forced to resign due to widespread protests during the decade before he took office.

Correa is a member of a bloc of leftist presidents in Latin America that includes Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. They are fervent critics of U.S. "imperialism" and have put in place policies to boost state revenue from their countries' natural resources.

A scandal over signatures to register political parties has heated up the pre-election climate in Ecuador. Hundreds of Ecuadoreans have complained that political parties registered their signatures without their consent.

The national election board is investigating the affair and has said it may give parties extra time to reach the nearly 160,000-signature minimum required. But it could also ban organizations found to have committed irregularities.

(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Philip Barbara)