Rafael Correa’s third successive election is proof of the stability the Ecuadorean President has brought to a country which had seen seven heads of state in the decade before his first win in 2007, not to speak of several violent revolutions and military coups in earlier periods. Mr. Correa, who leads the Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance (PAIS), won the February 17 poll by a landslide; with the count just over 70 per cent complete he had a 57 per cent vote-share, which is even greater than the 52 per cent share he took in 2009. His nearest rival, Guillermo Lasso of the Creating Opportunities Party, had 23 per cent, and a former President, Lucio Gutiérrez of the January 21 Patriotic Society Party, was third with 6.5. Re-elected in 2009 and now starting the concluding term which he will be allowed by the constitution he himself drafted, Mr. Correa is also the first Ecuadorean to complete a full presidential term for 20 years.
Like his friend and political ally President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Mr. Correa is unlikely to alter his strategy of using oil revenues to bring about vast improvements in the lives of his 14.7 million fellow citizens. This strategy depends crucially on high oil prices, but tough new contracts with international oil corporations, and better implementation of tax laws on domestic corporates and the rich have also trebled tax revenues in six years. The central bank is now in public hands, and public investment is 15 per cent of national income, with public debt and interest on foreign debt respectively only 25 per cent and one per cent of GDP. In 2012, unemployment fell to a 25-year low of 4.1 per cent, and poverty has fallen by 27 per cent since 2006. Education spending has doubled in that time and health-care spending has increased. Publicly subsidised housing credit has also helped, and a notable feature of all policy is a commitment to disability rights, which the outgoing Vice-President Lenín Moreno, himself a paraplegic after a shooting and — during the election period — the world’s first and only paraplegic head of state, has put on the political agenda. Internationally, Ecuador will continue to keep the United States at arm’s length, having earlier infuriated financiers by declaring Ecuador’s $3.9 billion foreign debt null and void, as it had been incurred by a predecessor state, and the former U.S. base at Manta will not reopen. In sum, Mr. Correa’s resounding victory confirms the success of the openly redistributive policies which have seen democratic socialist governments elected and re-elected throughout Latin America for nearly 15 years now.